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Full text of "To the coral strand: a novel"



I 



UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




To the 
Coral Strand 



Books by JOHN MASTERS 

to the coral strand 

the road past mandalay 

the venus of konpara 

fandango rock 

far, far the mountain peak 

bugles and a tiger 

coromandel! 

bhowani junction 

the lotus and the wind 

THE DECEIVERS 
NIGHTRUNNERS OF BENGAL 




To tke 

Coral Strand 



a novel ty JOHN MASTERS 



Harper & Row Publishers New York and Evanston 



St 

cmawor 



This book is wholly a work of fiction and no reference is intended 
to any person living or dead, except that a few public figures 
are mentioned. Geographically, a few of the places mentioned are, 
of course, real — for example, Delhi and Bombay; the great majority 
are imaginary. 

JM. 



TO THE CORAL STRAND. Copyright © 1962 by Bengal-Rockland, Inc. 
Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this 
book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written 
permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles 
and reviews. For information address Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated, 
49 East 33rd Street, New York 16, N.Y. 

FIRST EDITION 
H-M 

Library of Congress catalog card number: 62-14558 



For Alan and Nancy 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 



http://archive.org/details/tocoralstrandnovOOmast 



A Note to the Reader 



When John Masters started writing in 1949 he determined to use 
the flexibility and insight of the novel to paint a broad canvas of the 
British period in India. To give continuity to the whole, which 
would cover a period of three centuries, he linked the stories to the 
characters and adventures of a single family, the Savages. Jason 
Savage, a young Wiltshire farm boy, ran away to sea, reaching India 
early in the seventeenth century, in Coromandell There follows a 
considerable chronological gap when the family was sunk in the 
obscurity which then generally covered a turbulent and strife-torn 
India . . . until the emergence of William Savage, who, in 1826, 
uncovered and destroyed the ritual murder society known as Thuggee 
(The Deceivers). William's son, Rodney Savage, an officer of the 
Bengal Native Infantry, fought through the Great Indian Mutiny 
of 1857 (Nightrunners of Bengal). Rodney's son, Robin Savage, took 
a notable part in the "great game" of espionage and counterespionage 
that was played out between England and Russia on the high steppes 
of Central Asia in the 1880's (The Lotus and the Wind), but shortly 
afterward disappeared, leaving twin babies, a boy and a girl. The 

vii 



boy, Peter Savage, went to Cambridge, entered the Indian Civil 
Service, and became the most famous and ruthless Himalayan moun- 
taineer of the Edwardian period before the First World War (Far, 
Far the Mountain Peak). Peter's son, named Rodney after his great- 
grandfather, joined the Indian Army, and in 1946 felt the first 
intimations that the British period in India was drawing to a close 
(Bhowani Junction). It is this same Rodney Savage who, a year 
later, becomes the protagonist of To the Coral Strand and is relent- 
lessly pressed back, by the forces of history, to the shore upon which 
the same forces landed Jason Savage more than three hundred 
years earlier. 



vui 



To the 
Coral Strand 



Chapter 1 



Margaret Wood walked slowly down the center of the path, between 
the deep ruts of cart wheels. The sun streamed through the trees on 
her left hand, but the earth seemed dark. 

Was it evening, then? She passed her hand in front of her eyes, 
and for a time afterward could see nothing. She began to fall, and 
grasped a tree for support. Later, light returned, and she limped for- 
ward. Her shoes were red, and the red mud stained her bare legs. 

The jungle fell back on the right and tall shapes began to glow 
among the trees. The sun spread an aura of orange light over the 
twisted facades and towers of four temples. All four stood on a stone 
platform raised a few feet above the level of the earth. The summits 
of the towers rose a little above the tops of the tallest trees. She 
leaned dizzily against the stone platform. 

Was it evening, then? Twenty-four hours since he had died. Ten 
since the red earth rattled down on his coffin. Nine since she started 
walking. 

The part of the platform where she rested, near the track, was 
almost undamaged. The nearest temple stood there, too, seemingly 



complete. Behind, tree roots and bushes grew through cracks in the 
stone. One of the other temples was little more than a ruin, another 
leaned crazily against the bole of a peepul tree which had grown up 
from the earth below. The light shone, under a flat lintel, into the 
interior of the temple which leaned against the peepul tree. It 
illumined a stone pillar, polished and glowing, the side facing her 
carved with the curved lines that turned it from a pillar to a phallus. 
The other three towers repeated the shape. Every tower rose by 
soaring steps, and every step was composed of a torrent of human 
beings in stone, but alive. Every human being coupled sexually with 
another, or others. Close to her head, where she had laid it on the 
stone, a girl bent over, her long hair sweeping her bangled ankles, and 
a man powerful in his desire held her hips from behind. The stone 
girl smiled straight at the living woman. 

Margaret closed her eyes and wept soundlessly. God had taken 
Henry from her and she was alone. Why? Where was His infinite 
mercy? Alone against this overpowering, thrusting animalism, which 
Henry had so despised . . . and feared. Alone, by herself, without his 
simple goodness, that had been able to shame her out of all passion. 

She straightened her knees, and began to walk again. 

"Been having a look at the local pornographic exhibition?" The 
man's voice was a little high pitched, pleasant, slightly nasal. She 
jerked her head up and the words snapped out before she had time 
to think. "Yes . . . No, of course not." 

The man stood in the road five feet from her, a walking stick in 
his hand and his head bare. Through the blur of her recent tears his 
face sprang into violent focus, evenly lighted, gray against the orange 
glow among the trees. She stepped back a pace, and another, raising 
her arms. "Keep away," she gasped. "Don't touch me!" 

A shadow of astonishment crossed the man's blue eyes, then his 
expression altered. "You're ill. You're out on your feet." He took a 
pace toward her. 

She backed away. The trees swayed and the earth heaved. 
"Don't . . ." she began, and stopped. She stared more closely at him, 
one arm still raised. Was it possible that she had been mistaken? He 
stood there for inspection, his thin lips parted and his forehead 
wrinkled in an anxious frown. He was quite tall, clean shaven, his 
hair thick and dark, his eyes pale cold blue. His face was long and 
narrow, tapering to a strong pointed chin, his mouth wide. His khaki 



shirt flapped outside khaki drill trousers, and his desert boots were 
covered with the same red mud that covered her shoes. He held the 
walking stick in his left hand, and his rolled sleeves showed thin 
muscular arms thickly covered with black hair, a silver wrist-watch 
strap round his left wrist. 

She had not been mistaken. This was the man. 

"Now, please," he said. "Let me help you before you fall down." 
He smiled. "I assure you I never assault women unless, in one way 
or another, they invite me to. You must be Mrs. Wood." 

"My husband," she began, and stopped. The red earth glowed at 
her feet, and the sky was turning red. "My husband ... is dead." 

She saw him stepping quickly forward, his arm outstretched, and 
then the red light filled her eyes. 

She was lying on her back, water on her face and in her eyes and 
hair. She sat up, feeling an arm supporting her, and looked dimly 
around. It was almost dark. A stream purled and splashed past her 
feet and she saw a dim white shape to the right. "That's the old 
Forest Rest House," she muttered, "and this is the stream, the 
Shakkar." 

"Yes," he said, "I carried you here. You weigh quite a lot." 

"I'm not fat," she said indignantly, sitting up straight. 

"That's better. No, you're not fat, but you're not a sylph. . . . 
Can you walk now, if you lean on me? If not, I'll get my car. I could 
be back in half an hour." 

"I can walk," she said. He helped her up. Her knees trembled 
so that she almost fell. "I think so. I've been walking a long time." 

He said, "I apologize for my flippancy. I just parked my car in 
Lapri and walked straight past your mission. No one told me." 

She began walking, his stick in her hand. He walked at her side, 
comfortably matching his pace to hers; and as he walked, he talked— 
He was with McFadden Pulley, had been for a year. It's good, 
interesting work, he said, and worthwhile. He had never realized how 
much pioneering the British business firms did, and with no help 
from Government. At the moment, indeed, it was worse than that— 
there were prospects of active hostility from the socialistic-minded 
Congress. But McFadden Pulley would show them! At this very 
moment M.P. were on the track of new ore sources which, properly 
exploited, would create a whole new industry for India. 

"What ores?" she asked involuntarily. 



"Mainly manganese/' he said. "Do you know anything about 
metals?" 

She did not answer. His manifest enthusiasm had momentarily 
aroused her from her lethargy. But Henry was dead, and how could 
she care what this man did or thought? Anyway, he was only talking 
to keep her awake. 

He rambled on. He was staying at his firm's Sabora quarries, just 
down the main road. She had visited them, of course? "No ... I 
mean, yes, once." He loved this central Indian countryside. He had 
been in these parts before. How long had she been in India? 

"I landed in Bombay on August 15, 1947," she said, and turned 
her head to stare at him, trying to see his face. There was no 
reaction. 

"Independence Day," he said. "You've been here a year, then. I've 
been here seventeen years. There's a legend that a remote ancestor 
came here first in 1620, or thereabouts. Quite a long time." 

He turned to other subjects— the trees, the flowers, the wild animals. 
He asked her how much Hindustani she had learned and cross- 
examined her with Hindustani words and phrases. 

Two miles, she thought. Two miles down the gently winding road, 
empty as a churchyard at this hour of the evening. Last time she 
met this man he'd been a lieutenant colonel in worn jungle-green 
uniform, with two rows of medal ribbons, and he'd been drunk. It 
was in Bombay, not far from Sir Andrew Graham's flat— Sir Andrew 
was the managing director of McFadden Pulley. Perhaps he'd just 
come away from the flat, too, or was on his way there to be inter- 
viewed for a job in civilian life. He'd obviously got the job— but 
surely not that day, in that state? 

Her thoughts blurred and wandered. She wished she could lie down 
and sleep. 

"Shall I carry you?" he asked. "I could, you know. You're not really 
a bit heavy." 

"No," she snapped. 

His supporting arm pushed and joggled her, and she stumbled on. 
She didn't even know his name. He knew hers, because someone at 
the Sabora quarries must have mentioned the missionary couple 
buried in the jungles up the road, just over the border in Chambal 
State. Mentioned it, but not bothered to mention that Henry was 
dead. Perhaps they didn't know. Or care. Quiet, shy, Henry had never 



been anyone's hero. And now he'd gone, silently, with no one but 
herself as mourner. 

A yellow light shone ahead, and the man said, "Nearly there." He 
raised his voice and called, "Koi hai? Iddar ao 7 jaldi." 

"There's no one," she mumbled. "No servants. We are mis- 
sionaries." 

"But there is someone," he said. 

She recognized one of the nurses, a convert, walking toward them, 
lamp upheld. She heard the man's rapid talk as the two of them 
helped her up the steps. Now he had lifted her, and was carrying her 
to the bedroom. Last night she had knelt all night in the chapel, 
praying over Henry's body . . . and before that she'd lain alone here 
while he crept toward death in the front room, where he had 
insisted they put him. Now she was really alone. She wanted to cry 
out, Don't leave me. The nurse was a dirty, unwilling girl, her face 
sulky even in this extremity. Margaret had learned enough Hin- 
dustani to understand that the man was saying, "She's just tired. 
Stay with her. Give her something to drink, warm milk or tea, if she 
wakes up." 

She opened her eyes with a last effort, "Thank you. What's your 
name?" 

"Rodney Savage." 

When she awoke it was full morning and she was alone. She got 
up, and only then felt the blisters on her feet. She raised them and 
looked incuriously at the water-filled lumps spreading across the balls 
of her feet and between and under every toe. She prepared breakfast, 
ate hungrily and drank deeply, and went into the glare of the sun. 

Her aching feet led her slowly down the disheveled drive, a few 
yards along the road, and then left, toward the tiny chapel. Beside 
the chapel stood seven crosses. Six, the graves of men and women 
who had died in the mission hospital, were marked with simple stone 
crosses. Henry's had a wooden cross. Later, she must go to Sabora 
and ask the masons at the McFadden Pulley quarry to make her a tall, 
beautiful one for him. No, not bigger, just the same as the others: 
he would have wanted that. 

She stood for a moment at the cross, looking down. What am I to 
do now? Go over to the ward and see the patients, as though nothing 
had happened? Write letters to the Society in England, asking for 
instructions? Begin packing my clothes? 



Henry gave her no answer; on his grave the red earth lay silent, 
a little darker than the rest, but drying, fast sliding back into the 
breast of India. 

She turned to the chapel. Its door hung open on a broken hinge 
and she slipped in. It seemed very dark inside, but hot. There were 
two benches on one side, two on the other, at the end a bare teak 
table, and on the table a wooden cross. The floor was of beaten 
earth and the whole room was twelve feet square. She sat on one of 
the benches, staring at the cross, then slipped to her knees. 

"Jesus Christ, our Lord," she began, aloud, and stopped. 

Her whisper hung in the enclosed darkness. A bat circled the room, 
brushing the silence with noiseless wings, and settled with a creeping 
sound back on its perch. 

Henry was dead. His work, his life had been this mission. He had 
carried it forward through a thousand trials, a thousand disappoint- 
ments. Now the work was hers. She clasped her hands together so 
tightly that the nails bit into the palms. She was so tired. Already 
they had written to her from England, accepting that she must close 
the mission when Henry's slow, inevitable march to death reached 
its end. It would be easy to give up, and leave this burning, desolate 
land to its heathenism, to the pagan sexuality, which could live even 
in dead stone and seemed to wink and laugh everywhere, just under 
the decorous surface of life. 

"Give me strength to stay. I will not go," she prayed. The mission, 
her husband's lifework, must live on in her, where he himself would 
live, inviolate. 

She sat back on the bench, feeling the sweat run down between 
her thighs and under her breasts. 

As clearly as though he were speaking to her now she heard the 
man's voice, Rodney Savage's voice: "You've chosen a fine time to 
arrive, haven't you? Can't you read the traffic signs? One-way only, 
for us. That way." And the vivid image of the man saying them, one 
upflung arm pointing out to sea, face grinning sardonically under 
the street lamp. 

Now it was dawn that morning a year ago, August 15, 1947, 
India's Independence Day. She stood on the deck and watched the 
gray hot light spread under the monsoon clouds, and watched the 
approaching city grow out of the water. Henry lay in his bunk, weak 
and in pain with the first intimations of his illness. She remembered 



thinking, guiltily, as the Gateway of India slid past, that it was a 
strange moment to be arriving, bearing the dour messages of Lan- 
cashire nonconformist Christianity, in a country joyfully celebrating 
its reunion with its Hindu past. Henry had been here before, of 
course, many years. Henry felt nothing, no premonition, no despair. 
But Henry had faith. 

By the evening of that day Henry felt a little better, but not well 
enough to go and see Sir Andrew. She quieted his fears on her 
account, left him in the cheap hotel, and went herself. McFadden 
Pulley's cement works at Sabora were close to the Lapri Mission and 
the firm had always been generous in its help. 

It had drizzled slightly on her way, but when she came out after 
seeing Sir Andrew the rain had stopped. The streets were in pan- 
demonium. Rockets fizzed across the sky, thunder flashes exploded 
everywhere, and bonfires flared in the roadways. Without warning a 
surging crowds yelling and singing at the tops of their voices, had 
surrounded her, and she had felt a momentary panic. She found 
herself pressed against a lamppost, close to a tall British officer. He 
was wearing a peaked military cap of pale khaki felt with a black 
cloth patch behind the big silver badge. The light shining directly 
on his shoulders showed his rank badges, the black crown and star 
of a lieutenant colonel of a Rifle regiment— she had learned all that 
during the war. A heavy lanyard of twisted black and dark-green cord 
looped round his neck under the lapels of his tunic, and then divided 
at the top shirt button, one strand disappearing into each breast 
pocket. He wore two rows of medal ribbons, starting with the O.B.E. 
and then the Military Cross with two silver rosettes. Three M.Cs, 
she remembered thinking— he was a hero. Rodney Savage. 

He noticed her, examined her, and after a while said, "Frightened?" 

"A little," she said, smiling because her panic had gone. "They 
seem so . . . wild." 

"Just off the boat?" 

She nodded. "This morning, very early. My husband is a medical 
missionary. He's been out before, but this is my first time." She had 
to shout to make herself heard above the din. "Have you been here 
long?" 

That was when he said it, "Can't you read the traffic signals? One- 
way only, for us. That way," and the arm pointing seaward. That was 
also when she realized he was drunk. Nearly paralytic, her long nurse's 



training added. She found herself examining him with clinical in- 
terest. The lamppost was supporting him, but his eyes were out of 
focus and his voice slow, the words kept separate by hard effort, 
each word slightly blurred. 

She became frightened again, for her question seemed to galvanize 
him into action. He took a step forward and stood, swaying slightly 
in the middle of the crowd. He raised his hand, and bellowed in a 
tremendous voice, "Indians! Listen to me." The people nearest to 
him turned in astonishment. The noise took a while to die down, but 
soon he stood in the center of a dense circle of excited, dark faces. 

"Indians," he repeated, "you are now independent . . ." The faces 
broke into smiles, and a dozen voices rose in eager shouts in a 
language she could not understand. A tall thin man in a dhoti 
shouted in English, "And about time, too, don't you agree?" 

The drunken colonel bawled, "You are taking over this country 
as a gift from me . . ." He turned to the man in the dhoti and added, 
"It is not about time, my friend, because you will make an unholy 
mess of it." 

She tried to move behind the lamppost and out of sight. If he 
annoyed them, they would both be torn in pieces. These people 
were out of control. 

The dhoti wearer translated for the crowd, who murmured loudly. 
The dhoti wearer said, "But it is our country! You would not be 
denying that?" 

"Certainly, I do! It is not your country. It is mine. I made it, from 
a hundred countries, I and my great-great-grandfather, and my great- 
grandfather, and, and so on. But don't forget my father, my father, 
whom you murdered yesterday because he loved you." He raised his 
voice still more. "I am sorry I do not speak Gujrati, but my friend 
here will translate for you. . . . You are ignorant, superstitious, lazy 
buggers. You don't believe in India, because you're too, too small 
to understand India. Only understand your own dungheap . . ." 
She looked over her shoulder for a way of escape, but there was none. 
She was hemmed in. The colonel went on, "Whassa name that little 
man, no clothes, spectacles, spinning wheel?" 

"The Mahatma!" the English-speaker gasped. "Oh, do not 
dare . . ." 

"He understood," the colonel shouted, "so you shot him. Like 
my father . . . Well, aren't you going to kill me, too?" 



The English-speaker hung his head as he mumbled a translation. 
The crowd fell silent. Margaret watched in numb astonishment. 

The colonel threw his arms wide and began to talk in a language 
she did not then understand, but now knew was Hindi. Simul- 
taneously he embraced the English-speaker and shouted, "It'll be 
all right!" In a moment he almost vanished under the* yelling, 
weeping, laughing crowd. She saw him shaking hands, hugging every- 
one close to him, and kissing women on the cheek. 

Slowly the crowd moved on down the street, singing louder than 
ever. Colonel Savage stood in the middle of the road, alone among 
trodden garlands and wilting flowers, the smoke of a bonfire drifting 
past. He raised both arms, palms extended and fingers spread wide, 
and began to chant at the deep, light-flecked clouds over the city: 
"Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. Let 
us call down God's blessing upon Robert Clive, First and Last Baron 
Clive of Plassey and of the County of something or other. And 
Warren Hastings, impeached by the mighty British nation for pre- 
serving their profits, extending their dominions, and loving India. 
And Stringer Lawrence and Eyre Coote, those much-underestimated 
soldiers. And Nicholson, Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence, Hodson, 
and Edward es, the Old Firm, the muscular Christian moving men. 
And Mountstuart Elphinstone, Gent. And innumerable people called 
Battye and Coldstream, who usually died, without public comment, 
in places called Rumblebellypore or Rotimakkanganj. And William 
Hickey, and Mr. Justice Elijah Impey, and the great Elihu Yale, 
sometime chief despot of Madras. And Bobs Bahadur too, let us not 
forget him, O Lord, in spite of his well-known weakness in matters 
of administration." 

He stopped suddenly and staggered toward her. "You were 
frightened," he said accusingly. "You'll never make a memsahib. 
You will be terribly polite, and afraid, and, and— hating them. I . . . 
I'm rude, and I'm not afraid, and ... I love them. But it's time to 
go. That's the whole sad sad story. Time to go. But I'm not going. 
Never. See?" 

He stood and examined her thoroughly. "You're a good-looking 
woman, wonderful body. Would you care to take your clothes off? 
Take 'em off, and we'll make love in the street, here. Only proper 
thing to do, today." 

He put out his hand. She gathered her stunned wits and began 



to run. After a few seconds, realizing no one was following, she 
looked over her shoulder. The colonel lay alone on his face at the 
edge of the road, under the street lamp. For a time she hesitated, 
watching and waiting, then she turned again and hurried to the 
hotel. ... 

It was stifling in the chapel now. She got up slowly, and found her 
knees stiff. She walked out into the leaden glare of day. Time to go- 
but, like him, she would not go. She crossed the road and entered 
the low hut that was the mission hospital's only ward. 



10 



Chapter 2 



Major General Ran Singh Dadhwal, known throughout the Indian 
Army as "Max," spread his big hands on the table and looked up. 
"Achcha, so what do you propose to do now, Ranjit?" 

The man opposite him, across the table, Mr. Ranjit Singh, Indian 
Civil Service, was the Deputy Commissioner of the district. He was 
about thirty-six years of age, and wore a smart suntan suit with a 
white shirt and British cricket club tie— the Free Foresters, the 
general noted. The Deputy Commissioner was a Sikh, and today 
his long hair was bound up in a puggaree of dazzling pink. A 
polished steel bangle showed on his right wrist under the sleeve of his 
coat. 

"I think we will have to be quite firm," Ranjit Singh said. "If we 
don't nip it in the bud now we will have worse trouble later." 

The general nodded. That's what he had expected to hear. Sikhs 
usually liked to be tough on everyone's foibles except their own. 
Also, there was the I.C.S. tradition. Eight hundred Englishmen 
hadn't ruled four hundred million Indians by forming committees. 
They'd gone out and done something, in person, at once. All Indians 

11 



joining the I.C.S. had learned the lesson. 

The general said, "I can send a battalion down to maneuver in the 
area while you go in and haul out the ringleaders . . . but I pre- 
sume you'll speak to the Governor before that. I mean, about what 
action is to be taken if they won't come. I don't want my chaps to 
drift into a battle. I want to know what the policy is before we 
go in. Otherwise, you'll have to do it with the police alone." 

The light changed and the two Indians glanced up. An Englishman 
stood in the open double doors, smiling. The general leaped to his 
feet. "Rodney! What are you doing here?" He pumped the new- 
comer's arm. "My God, it's funny seeing you in mufti again. Just 
like before the war! Have you made your lakh yet, or is it a crore 
by now?" 

The Englishman grinned and slapped the general's back. "I am in 
this area because McFadden Pulley have sent me to study their 
cement operations. I'm in this dak bungalow because there was 
gossip that the Courageous General Sahib and the August Collector 
Sahib— they still use the old titles here, don't they?— were meeting 
to discuss yesterday's incident at Bhilghat." He turned to the Sikh. 
"You're the D.C.? I'm Rodney Savage." 

"Ranjit Singh," the D.C. said, smiling. 

"How's the policeman who . . .?" 

"Died this morning, in Bhowani hospital," the D.C. said. 

"Poor bastards," Rodney said. "They must be desperate." 

The general smiled at the remark. Rodney's instinctive reaction 
was for the Gonds, who had committed the outrage, rather than for 
the forces of law and order. Yet he had enforced the law often 
enough, as ruthlessly as he had fought the Japanese. 

Rodney turned to him. "I'm interrupting a conference— and that's 
what I meant to do. Look— if there isn't anything secret or high 
policy about this, can I help? I know Bhilghat pretty well. I was there 
before the war, and again once or twice in '46. And I've got a sort 
of family connection with the Gonds there. You don't have to listen 
to me . . . any more . . ."he grinned, "but it's just possible that 
I might say something helpful." 

The general looked at the D.C. This was a civilian party, so far, 
and he'd have to abide by Ranjit Singh's decision. The I.C.S. 
didn't take kindly to advice from soldiers at the best of times, and 
now, with independence so recent, and Rodney an Englishman . . . 

12 



To his surprise the D.C. said, after only a small hesitation, "Please 
do. Why don't you sit down?" 

They all sat. Rodney said, "In case it leaks out to your superiors 
that I was at this conference, I was just expressing McFadden Pulley's 
anxiety over the possible effects on our quarrying operations." 

"The story's simple enough," the D.C. said. "About a month ago 
the provincial government, in accordance with the policy of the 
Government of India, abolished the post of special assistant com- 
missioner for Bhilghat— " 

"The best young man's job in the I.C.S.," Rodney murmured. 

"Yes, but against national policy," the D.C. said, smiling a little 
thinly. "The Gonds have always been treated as a separate people, 
as savages. Their isolation from the rest of India, and other Indians, 
has been preserved and even reinforced. We cannot accept that. All 
Indians are— Indians. Bhilghat lies geographically in my district, 
Bijoli, and it has now been included in it. The Special Assistant 
Commissioner, who used to be responsible to the Governor direct, 
is now merely my own assistant. They gave me a new man . . ." 

The general glanced at Rodney, expecting a groan or a sign of 
dismay; those were his own reactions at the time when the decision 
had been made. But Rodney showed nothing. The D.C. must also 
have expected disapproval, for he added quickly, "We had to. The 
man there, though he was an Indian, had identified himself too 
closely with the Gonds. . . . Yesterday the new man went down 
to discuss the building and staffing of a school for the Gonds. They 
opened fire on him, wounded him — he's still in hospital— and one 
of his police escort, the man who died." 

Rodney said, "And you're planning to go back with more police, 
or some of Max's men in the background?" 

"I am going to get hold of the headman and the elders, and I'm 
going to discuss schools," the D.C. said. "I don't propose to make 
much fuss about the affair yesterday, if they co-operate now. If they 
don't— then . . . " He shrugged. 

Max watched his friend drumming his fingers on the table. He 
hoped he would come out with some idea that would save the 
Gonds from further trouble. They were a race of aborigines, living 
widely scattered over these Vindhya hills of Central India and com- 
pletely out of touch with the modern world. They were not a relic 
of medieval times, nor yet of India's Golden Age, but of prehistory. 

*3 



They were pathetic and yet likable. He wished that their individualism 
could somehow be preserved . . . but the new policy was right. A 
new India, a single India, conscious of its oneness, had to be created 
somehow, and fast. 

Rodney said, "Will you let me go down there alone, to talk to the 
headman?" The D.C. started to speak but Rodney raised his hand. 
"Not as an official emissary. Suppose I had heard nothing of yester- 
day's affair and just happened to be driving down that way. I don't 
think I'll be in any danger. I wouldn't go if I thought that. My hero 
days are over." He smiled again, the wide grin that looked out of 
place under the cold blue eyes. That grin had always made Max 
smile, too, and he smiled now. 

The D.C. said gently, "I appreciate your offer, Savage— but I'm 
afraid I can't permit that. After all, I'm trying to make the Gonds 
realize that there's a new government of India— and that they're a 
part of it." 

Rodney said, "Then why don't you and Max come with me?" 

"We will increase the danger of a clash," Max said. 

The D.C. grimaced. "We will, damn it, though it's an annoying 
thing to have to admit. And if they shoot me or the general, I'm 
afraid they will be in real trouble. I had thought of going down 
alone, of course, and decided it was not fair to them. After all, if 
they are willing to shoot at Parsad, how much more at me?" 

"And to bore holes in a Thrice-Born of the I.C.S. is a heinous 
crime, indeed," Rodney said with a straight face. The D.C. looked 
at him suspiciously, and then laughed. 

Rodney said, "Look, I have no position. But I do know these 
people. I think I can guarantee there won't be any trouble. If we 
fail, we'll fail without bloodshed. I believe it's worth trying." 

The D.C. made up his mind quickly. "All right. When can you 
start?" 

"Quarter of an hour," Rodney said. "I suggest we go in my com- 
pany's jeep— we three, and Ratanbir. He's my orderly— I mean my 
chauffeur. Lately Havildar Ratanbir Burathoki, I.D.S.M., of the 
i/i3th Gurkha Rifles." 

The general sat up. "Ratanbir? Is that the fellow who killed two 
Japanese officers with his kukri the night we—?" 

The D.C. interrupted, smiling. "We had better get ready . . ." 

"Sorry," the general said, "Rodney and I haven't met for a long 

H 



time. We'll have a good gup when we come back, eh? You must 
come and stay with us in Bhowani. Well, we can discuss that on the 
trip. Oh, and Janaki's coming out . . ." 

But Rodney had gone, with a wave of the hand, and the D.C. 
was on his feet. "An old army friend of yours? He's the man who got 
K. P. Roy, isn't he?" 

The general said, "Yes. He's more than a friend. He saved my 
career once." 

"Yours?" the D.C. said incredulously. "I've never heard that you 
were the sort of chap to get into trouble." 

The general hesitated; but it was important to let the D.C. know 
what sort of man Rodney Savage was. He said, "It was in Peshawar, 
not long after he'd joined— I had seven or eight years' service by then. 
We were an Indianized battalion, of course, and the fellow next 
junior to me got into moneylender trouble. He asked me to lend him 
two thousand chips out of the Treasure Chest or there'd be a stink, 
a court-martial. . . . The stink would have been about a dishonest 
Indian. I felt it my duty to our reputation— there weren't so many of 
us in the service then— to help him. He put the lot on the horses, lost 
it, and disappeared. Then it was me who was in danger of a court- 
martial, and cashiering . . . one Indian instead of another. I told 
Janaki. She must have told Rodney, though I specially ordered her 
not to say anything— I had to face the music myself. Next day he 
came to the bungalow and gave me two thousand rupees." 

"Did he say where he got it?" 

"No . . . I've always believed he stole it, but he never said a 
word, or I couldn't have taken it. It was bad enough anyway— but 
thinking of Janaki, what would happen to us, made me desperate." 

"A good friend, but a pretty ruthless character," the D.C. 
murmured. 

The general said, "Yes, I suppose you'd have to say that. . . . We 
kept on running into each other after that, on the Frontier. Then 
we commanded battalions in the same brigade in Burma. He was a 
hell of a good soldier." 

"Old India family?" 

The general nodded. "Yes. Very old." 

The D.C. said, "Poor devils. They can't let go, even if they want 
to. Still, they had a long innings, and a good one, from their point 
of view. . . . I'll be ready in a minute." 

*5 



The general picked up his red-banded hat and put it carefully on 
his head. He must tell his orderly and driver they were to stay here. 
Janaki was due later this afternoon to see how her Sabora Cottage 
Industry Co-operative was coming along. And, my God, he'd nearly 
forgotten— Sumitra was coming too. Not to look at Cottage Indus- 
tries—out of boredom, more likely, and to preach birth control to 
giggling, nervous village women. Have to tell the chowkidar to get 
her room ready. . . . Funny, Rodney turning up out of the blue. 
You couldn't agree with Rodney all the time about India. No Indian 
could. But you knew he loved India. You could fight happily with 
him. He sighed and went to his room to fill his tobacco pouch. 

He and the D.C. were waiting on the veranda when a jeep drove 
up fast from the direction of the little town down the road. Rodney 
sat in the front seat beside a short Gurkha wearing khaki trousers, a 
white shirt, and a small round black cap. As the jeep stopped, Rodney 
swung easily into the back seat. "Will you sit in front, Ranjit? Then 
they'll hit you first. Max and I will cower in* the back. Thirty-two 
miles to Bhilghat— about an hour and a half on this road." 

They drove off. Max found his feet awkwardly placed on top of a 
large sack, that clinked as the jeep bounced along the rutted, muddy 
road, little more than a cart track. He cocked his head inquisitively, 
and the D.C. turned round in his seat. 

Rodney Savage said, "Rum. It helps." 

The jeep bumped on, often in four-wheel drive and low gear in 
the deep reddish mud. The general fumbled for his pipe and began 
to fill it with his favorite mixture, a Benson and Hedges Special, 
which he ordered direct from London. Won't be getting this much 
longer, he thought, after the Prime Minister's warning that India 
must cut down imports. 

The road wound up a low rise in short, steep zigzags, the outer 
edge marked by mud-splashed white stones. Momentarily from the 
top a long view spread out to the south, the foreground and middle 
distance all green under the jungle, the background dim blue, the 
whole filmed with a thin haze that reduced all dimensions to one, 
like a coat of paint on the surface. For a second the land seemed 
almost featureless, but, quickly, as the jeep's nose dipped down the 
far slope, he saw scattered cliffs, which marked the edge of gorges, 
and lines of rock on far escarpments, and the flash of water in a lake. 
Heavy white cloud formations sailing over from the southwest 

16 



covered half the sky. Then they were grinding down in low gear, 
and he was looking under the ranked trees, where the wet leaves lay 
thick on the short grass, and there was a flock of goats and a young 
girl standing guard over them in the shade of a sal tree. 

Something about his companion's attitude attracted his attention 
and he turned his head. Rodney Savage sat hunched forward, staring 
past Ratanbir's head at the landscape— no, not at it, but through and 
beyond it. His lips were slightly open and his whole being seemed 
to be projected forward— out of the bumping vehicle into the pat- 
terned sunlight and shadow of the jungle. He began to speak. 
' 'Remember the mahua berries in July?" Max opened his mouth, then 
closed it. His friend was not speaking to him, nor to any of them. 

". . . They lie sticky and white under the trees everywhere in the 
jungle. The rain seems to fall directly through the trees then, because 
the monsoon has made the leaves heavy with all the water they can 
bear. The raindrops glisten on the berries. If you're near a village 
you see men and women and children gathering them, like ants . . . 
bent down, the baskets beside them, gathering up the berries and 
dropping them into the baskets. And someone has always started 
to boil them in the village, so if you're coming upwind you can 
smell the sweet, fermenting smell from two miles away . . ." 

He stopped, and when he spoke again it was in a different voice: 
"What did that missionary in Lapri die of, Ranjit?" 

"Dr. Wood? Cancer. Did you know him?" 

"No. I'd heard of them, of course. They are on M.P.'s books as 
worthy objects of our charity— and to leaven our profits with a little 
godliness." 

"It looks good on the balance sheets," the D.C. said dryly. "And, 
of course, the Raj had to stick together." 

Rodney laughed. "What was he like— Wood?" 

"A good man," the D.C. said slowly. "He'd been in India a long 
time but somehow never came to terms with it. He always looked a 
little surprised and horrified— at the heat, the dirt, the things his 
patients and the villagers did or didn't do. He was alone there for 
years, and then near the end of the war he went back to England 
and married the most competent nurse in the hospital where he'd 
been trained himself, years before. She's a good deal younger than 
he is— was. Northern Irish. Her name was Donoghue. A good-looking 
woman— good figure, auburn hair, and one of those skins that go 



with it, creamy and almost transparent but healthy." 

"I know," Rodney said. "I met her yesterday by accident. She'd 
been wandering round the jungles all day, in a daze. It must have 
been a blow." 

The D.C. said, "I suppose she loved him. She certainly acted like 
it, and there must have been something, to bring her out here. But, 
you know, it wasn't what I'd call love. Perhaps it was religious 
fervor, or faith, or—" 

"I met her once," Max interposed. "She's like an Indian woman, 
that's all. She married this man, and accepted him and his life and 
tried to make it her all. How well she succeeded"— he shrugged— 
"no one can know. Perhaps she needed more time, and now he's 

g °" e '" 

"The poor devil was ill the whole time since he came back last 

year," the D.C. said. 

"She must be absolutely lost," Max said. "And, hey, Rodney, 
that reminds me— congratulations on your engagement. When's the 
wedding?" 

"October, in Delhi. . . . We're getting near, collector. Asti janu, 
choro. I think I'll stand up, if you don't mind." The jeep slowed 
and Max thought, He's as sharp as ever. Calling Ranjit "Collector" 
suddenly, like that, established the official relationships, and made an 
acknowledgment that the Sikh was in charge. 

It would be easier if Rodney and the D.C. changed places, so that 
Rodney could hold onto the windshield, Max thought. But that would 
put the two Indians in the back seat. "Here, hang on to my 
shoulder," he said. He settled his red cap more firmly on his head, 
grasped his pipe between his teeth, and began to search the side of 
the road. They'd just passed milestone 28. If the Gonds meant 
business . . . The jeep swept round a sharp bend and lurched to a 
halt, throwing the passengers forward. 

A sharp clattering sound from the hood made Max look up, and 
he saw an arrow turning in the air, to land beyond in the mud. 
Several large boughs blocked the road. 

"No farther," a voice called from the jungle in accented Hindi. 
"Go back, or we will shoot, with guns." 

"Sit still, everyone," the D.C. said sharply. 

Rodney turned his face toward the jungle, from where the in- 
visible voice had called. He spoke conversationally, in Hindi. "Ohe, 

18 



brother! Is Badal the shikari still alive?" 

After a long pause the voice answered grudgingly, "No, he is dead. 
Now, go back, or we will shoot." 

"Gulu, then? His younger brother." 

"Gulu's the chief now," the D.C. muttered. 

Rodney said, "Tell Gulu, the chief, that Savage Sahib is here and 
wishes to talk to him about hunting. Savage Sahib, great-great-grand- 
son of the Deliverer." 

There was a long pause, and then the voice said, "I recognize you, 
sahib. Wait." 

Rodney sat down and said, "We'll have a long wait. Gulu will 
be in the village." 

"Who was the Deliverer?" the D.C. asked curiously. 

"William Savage." 

"The man who destroyed Thuggee?" 

Rodney nodded. "He spent a lot of time with the Gonds after 
that. It was nothing to do with the Thugs, as far as I can make out, 
that they call him the Deliverer. It was the British government he 
saved them from, who were going to do something dreadful to them." 

"Build a school, perhaps," the D.C. said dryly. 

They all laughed, and then settled down to wait. Max examined 
the jungle curiously. There were probably half a dozen small dark 
men in there, with bows and arrows and a couple of ancient muskets 
trained on them from no more than fifteen feet— and he could see 
nothing. At least one man, probably two, had just run off through 
the heavy undergrowth toward the village— and he had heard nothing. 
He sighed and began relighting his pipe. If he could train his sepoys 
to move like that . . . 

Heavier clouds piled up in the sky, and he felt hungry. Why had 
no one remembered to bring food? Probably because Rodney in- 
tended to ask the Gonds for it, to establish that they were guests. 
Who was it who'd written, "If you want to make a friend, allow him 
to do you a favor"? Now Rodney would have to eat fried rat and raw 
ants. Thank God he himself was a Hindu and could properly refuse. 

A man stood suddenly in the road five feet from the jeep's hood. 
He wore a loincloth, and nothing else, and carried a small long- 
handled ax in his hand. He was short, square, and very black, with 
short grizzled hair over a wide, angular, wrinkled face. 

Rodney stood up. "Gulu— greetings!" He stepped down from the 

19 



jeep and walked forward. The two embraced formally, first clasping 
each other round the shoulders and then standing back and bowing, 
palms joined. 

"May your belly always be full, sahib. You look well." 

They exchanged polite small talk for a few minutes. Then the old 
Gond said, "Come to the village, and we will eat and drink. The 
mahua arrack from this year is good, though fiery, and I have a little 
left, a barrel, from last year." 

"Thank you," Rodney said. "I am with these friends— Ranjit 
Singh-sahib, Deputy Commissioner . . ." 

Gulu the chief folded his thin, strong arms across his chest. "I do 
not know him. He may not pass." 

The D.C., his face set, began to climb out of the jeep. Rodney said 
in a low voice, "Very easy, collector!" He turned back to the Gond. 
"I think you do know him, uncle. Whether or no— he is my friend 
and so is the other, the general-sahib, Dadhwal. And the driver, 
Havildar Ratanbir, a Gurkha. Him you know, he came with me 
before, when we were in the army." 

"Him I know," the chief said. He went forward and embraced 
the Gurkha. 

Rodney said, "We are unarmed, all of us." 

The old Gond had returned to the middle of the road, arms 
folded, the ax blade over his right shoulder, his head high, silent, 
unsmiling. 

Rodney said slowly, "Was it not said, once, that the Deliverer 
and his seed, from then to the end of time, were Gonds? Free to 
eat and drink and hunt in all Gond lands? To demand the life of any 
Gond man, with or without reason? Put their own life into any 
Gond woman not already pregnant? Were these words only the 
promise of a Hindu banniah, to be forgotten when there is no profit 
to be made from them?" 

God, the general thought he's being hard on them. The promise 
must already have lasted a century and a quarter; and the deed 
Rodney was now helping the D.C. to accomplish would mean the 
end of the promise and the end of the kind of society that could 
give and keep it. 

The old chief stood a minute longer, then bowed his head. "It was 
said. I am sorry. They may come, as your friends For no other 
reason." 

20 



"We come as the representatives of the Government of India," 
the D.C. said stiffly. 

The old chief bowed ironically, and Max thought, We do not, 
we come under the protection of an Englishman, in our own country. 
Well, that's the way it was. Next year, the year after, it would be 
different. There was nothing to be done about it now, except be 
patient and understanding. 

"Get in the jeep, Gulu," Rodney said. The old man threw a few 
words over his shoulder into the silent jungle and climbed in. Two 
men appeared and dragged away the tree boughs. Ratanbir drove 
slowly on, Gulu now perched on the back seat between Max and 
Rodney. 

It's all over, Max thought, all over bar the shouting. The Gonds 
were not fools and the only real problem was to reach them without 
creating another bloody incident. 

As he had predicted, the tension relaxed all day, slowly but 
steadily. An hour after reaching the compact village— all the huts 
were very small, and two or three families lived in caves— they ate, 
and not mice or worms but a fine fish, with curried vegetables and 
chapatties. Outside the hut a short, heavy rain fell, darkening earth 
and sky. Inside, they sat on beaten earth and were served in silence 
by Gulu's granddaughters. Gulu had vanished and did not reappear 
until midaftemoon. By then the rain had stopped, the hot sun had 
dried the grass, and the appearance of able-bodied men in consider- 
able numbers proved that the pickets and scouts had been recalled. 

Then Gulu came, and Rodney talked with him for a long time 
outside, while he himself and Ranjit pretended to sleep in the hut. 
It would be undignified for the D.C. to hang around, aimless, while 
the Englishman talked, and this was a good way out. Rodney and 
Gulu were not far off, and Max, listening to their voices, caught 
enough to know that Rodney was not discussing the school, nor 
yesterday's attack on the Assistant Commissioner's party, but shikar. 
There were a good many tigers over to the west, across the border 
in Chambal State, the old Gond said. A man who went out from 
here, or from Lapri, could have good shooting. There was good fish- 
ing, also— he named four kinds of fish. Then they reminisced about 
Rodney's last visit, and two or three times Gulu cackled with laughter. 
Max heard the clink of bottles, and later the gurgle of liquid. He 
hoped Rodney knew what he was doing. The ice had to be broken, 



21 



but if the Gonds were still in a state of fear and inner tension they 
might get fighting drunk. Rodney would be all right, but he and 
Ranjit could easily finish up with poisoned arrows in their guts. 

"Now try the arrack, sahib," he heard the chief say distinctly. "That 
is this year's." There was a faint female giggle. The granddaughters 
were pretty girls, for Gonds, and young; they must be great-grand- 
daughters. The Gonds often consummated marriage at twelve or 
younger. 

The sounds of talk and laughter increased outside and the D.C. sat 
up. "About time we joined the party, I think," he said. They brushed 
off their clothes and walked out. Twenty villagers were gathered by 
then, all men except for the two girls crouched in the background. A 
momentary silence greeted them, broken by Rodney calling, "Sit 
down, collector. I happen to have brought a little rum with me. 
Gulu has been telling me about the shikar . . ." 

Then they all talked about shikar, which to these people meant 
food and life; and from there to the state of the few crops the Gonds 
grew, a little millet on the cleared hillside, a little rice in the bottoms. 
The D.C. never mentioned the object of his visit and Max thought, 
He's good, he has the I.C.S. stamp of confidence and firmness, plus 
an Indian's sense of community, of not being a stranger, however 
marvelous. As the dusk fell the girls brought little scraps of toasted, 
curried meat. Max ate without inquiring what they were. They would 
not be beef anyway, because the Gonds owned no cattle, only a few 
goats. Two young men lit a bonfire and at the edge of the circle 
women began to appear, squatting on their hunkers, loinclothed like 
the men, bare breasted, the younger ones with at least one baby, 
sometimes two, at breast, and another in the lap. 

The murmuring increased, more food came, more people came. 
Full darkness crept up from the reed-rimmed shore of the lake. 
Arrack passed round, in bamboo mugs, teak bowls, and earthenware 
jars. An hour after dark a young man shuffled out in front of the fire 
and began to dance. Others joined him. Singing began, guttural and 
almost tuneless melodies that wandered about near the bottom of the 
scale. Small drums began to rattle and throb. On Max's right, Gulu 
squatted between Rodney and the D.C. 

The two wide-mouthed girls crouched close behind Rodney. Max 
felt sure, from their protective, intimate attitude that Rodney had 
slept with them when he was last here. He wondered whether he 

22 



would do so again tonight. Perhaps he would have to, to avoid 
upsetting the Gonds, if they had been offered to him as a special 
gift or because of his relationship with the Deliverer. Himself, he'd 
rather not. Gond women were really not attractive, and although 
Janaki would understand if he had to— he just didn't want to. He'd 
hardly ever wanted another woman than her. To be honest, hardly 
any other woman had ever wanted him— unlike Rodney. It must 
be a problem at times, that animal vitality which could at any 
moment make any woman, even the most respectable, suddenly 
think of bed. Ah, well, it wasn't likely to be a problem of his. He 
puffed contentedly at his pipe, noting that about two more rums 
would be enough for him. 

The D.C. was saying, "No — he died this morning. It was in his 
fate." He spoke equably, as though the murder of a policeman on 
duty was a mere accident, which might have happened to anyone. 
Good, Max thought; really, it was an accident. A sudden outburst 
like that, from the Gonds, was an act of nature. There would be 
many more such, among many Indian tribes and peoples, before 
they could all be treated as rational human beings, answerable to a 
court of law for every action. And now the subject had been broached, 
and the old Gond was relaxed and full of rum and arrack. 

The D.C. began to tell Gulu about the school he himself had been 
to, as a little boy in a Punjab village. Rodney got up, caught the two 
girls by the wrists and dragged them out, giggling and shrieking, into 
the center of the circle by the fire. "Now I shall dance," he cried. 

He began to gyrate and twist, his feet shuffling time with the beat 
of the nearest drum— there were a dozen different beats, half a dozen 
groups of dancers. Holding the girls tight, he danced with ludicrously 
suggestive movements, and most of the audience collapsed onto the 
grass, laughing with painful gasps. The girls dragged free and rushed 
into the shadow of a hut, where they hid their faces behind their 
hands and watched, cackling with laughter as loud as anyone. 

After five minutes Rodney beckoned, and Ratanbir the Gurkha 
stepped out into the firelight. Rodney seized a drum from a man 
collapsed with laughter and began to beat a subtle complex rhythm. 
Ratanbir, his face downcast and earnest, began to dance. Rodney 
sang, a haunting, repetitive melody. 

Max poured himself another rum. The D.C. and the chief, their 
heads close together, were talking about schoolteachers. Where 

2 3 



could they find a teacher who understood the Gond language? How 
could the village pay for such people? The Gurkha danced in slow 
grace, his powerful, squat body bending and turning as sinuously as 
a girl's. The audience was silent, except for the murmurs of Gulu and 
the D.C. The fire crackled and hissed as a few drops of rain fell. The 
underside of the trees reflected a diffuse yellowish light down on the 
thatched roofs of the huts, the dark heads, the babies sleeping in 
their mothers' arms. 

Gulu the chief rose suddenly to his feet and clapped his hands with 
a short explosive sound. Ratanbir stopped dancing. Rodney let the 
rhythm of his drum die down in two more phrases, soft and softer. 
Gulu spoke a few short sentences in his own language, which Max 
could not understand. The D.C. leaned over to him and whispered, 
"He's agreed. We won't build the school. We'll give them some 
money, and they'll build it themselves. We're getting a Gond-speaking 
teacher up from Jubbulpore. He never gave us a chance to tell him 
that before." 

The old man flung his arms wide in a motion that said, without 
the need for words, Let joy be unconfined. The drums struck up, 
the singing redoubled, dancers gyrated wildly on the grass. 

Rodney approached and Max got up, his hand out. "Congratula- 
tions, Rodney." 

His friend looked tired now and his smile was a little grim. 
"Thanks ... I don't like it, you know." 

"What, education for the Gonds?" 

Rodney looked back at the fire and the dancing figures. "I don't 
know. Perhaps not even that. Certainly not bringing out these 
people's basic warmth and then— stabbing them in the back. Next 
time you come here it won't be like this. There'll be a political rally 
instead. Guest speaker — Mr. Purshottamdass Tirthankardass, M.L.A." 
He went abruptly over to the headman and said, "Uncle, I am tired. 
With your permission, I shall go to sleep." 

"Thus early?" the old man said in surprise. "You did not sleep at 
all last time you came to Bhilghat." The D.C. was looking up at 
Rodney, his expression compassionate. Rodney said, "The Collector 
Sahib wishes to sit up all night, though. All Sikhs are mighty drinkers 
of rum, and the Collector Sahib is a champion among Sikhs." 

"That's a dirty trick," the D.C. said in English. "Well, I suppose 
even the worst hangover in history would be worth it." 



Gulu said, "Very well, sahib/' He gestured with his chin. "Your 
women are there." 

"Not tonight, uncle. I could not do justice to them." 

He strode away toward the hut appointed for them. Max made 
his own apologies and followed. It was dark inside and there was no 
bed, only three flattened piles of dry grass. As Max entered he heard 
the rustling of grass and muttered, "Which one are you taking, 
Rodney?" 

"This one, in the corner." A match flared and then the glow of a 
cigarette end. Now also the light from the fire outside, slipping in 
through a hundred tiny cracks in the walls, enabled Max to see. 
Rodney was sitting cross-legged in the middle of his pile of grass, 
the cigarette hanging from his lower lip and his face twisted up in 
the smoke. He bent forward to untie his shoe laces. Max sat down 
and followed suit. 

Rodney loosened his belt and said, "That's it. Not a very com- 
plicated toilette." He sat there, just as he had in the jeep, staring 
toward the open doorway and the shadowed jungle, lit by the fire 
from the other side. He began to speak. "Poor girls . . . She smelled 
very different, and she was beautiful where these are ugly— to my 
eyes— but there was something of the same in her. A different relation- 
ship with a man. She was as passionate as these half-savage girls are, 
and they are like rutting animals, and like them, she'd never found 
that there was a war between men and women. There was none of the 
hostility you sometimes feel with our women. The moon was in the 
same phase as it is tonight, and it shone on her hair, her hair flowing 
like a dark river so that all I could see was hair and all I could feel 
was flesh, and all I could smell was . . . India." 

"Who was it?" Max asked gently. "I don't mean her name, 
but ..." 

"My first Indian woman," Rodney said, "I wonder whether I've 
had my last. I'm engaged, remember? That's why I didn't go to the 
girls. Frances wouldn't understand. You know her?" 

"No. She's John Clayton's sister, isn't she— the fellow who was 
your M.T.O. in Burma?" 

"Yes. He was in McFadden Pulley's before he volunteered. He 
got me my job with them when I chucked the service. His wife went 
home to put the kids in school, so Frances came out to housekeep 
for him, early in '47. . . . Almost one year of total chastity for R. 

2 5 



Savage. You ought to win some bets on that." He laughed aloud, 
the strange mood vanished. "Good night." 

The grass rustled and Max lay back, pillowed his head on his arms, 
and soon fell asleep. 

Shortly before noon the next day the jeep ground over the brow 
of the last hill on the return journey, and Max saw the quarries and 
the pall of reddish dust that marked Sabora in the valley below. Now 
Rodney was driving, and Max sitting beside him. Rodney turned his 
head and said, "Eh, atharsil Collector Sahib lai uiha." 

Max watched, smiling, as the Gurkha gently moved his shoulder. 
The D.C. sat up, yawning and rubbing his bloodshot eyes. He looked 
very pale and disheveled. As he adjusted the pink puggaree more 
firmly on his head, he muttered, "God, I feel awful." 

"And two beautiful ladies to greet you when we arrive," Rodney 
said cheerfully. 

"Oh, no!" the D.C. cried. "Who?" 

"My wife and the Rani of Kishanpur— Sumitra," Max said. 

"Sumitra?" the D.C. said. "I'd better hurry back to Bijoli, full 
speed. My wife will give me hell if she hears Fve been meeting her 
in deserted dak bungalows at the back of beyond." 

"You must stay for a drink and lunch," Max said; and then Rodney 
stopped the jeep in front of the dak bungalow. Max's orderly ran 
out, followed a moment later by two women. Max walked up the 
steps. "Hullo, darling. The excitement's over." He caught her hand 
momentarily and as he did he noticed that she was staring over his 
shoulder, her body tense. "Rodney," she said, "Rodney Savage!" 

Rodney came up then, a half-smile on his face. "In person." He 
held out his hand. "How are you, Janaki?" 

She dropped her eyes. "This is the Rani of Kishanpur. Colonel 
Rodney Savage." 

The Rani said, "Rodney— the famous Rodney." 

Rodney stood and stared at her, the half-smile still on his face. 
"Sumitra." 

Max watched, fascinated, as they stood there, looking, gauging, 
Janaki between them. Sumitra had the classical rounded Indian 
beauty, wheat-gold skin, her black hair piled in a loose Western 
wave on top of her head. She wore a pale-blue sari, and high-heeled 
sandals. Janaki was much smaller, her figure in the patterned red 
sari seeming almost childlike beside the Rani's full-bosomed curves. 

26 



Her cheekbones were higher and the eyes wider set in the small 
heart-shaped face; and she was darker than the other, and her heavy 
head of hair was swept down from a straight center parting. 

The Rani broke the silence. "I have known about you for twelve 
years— since I married Dip. And now we meet." 

"I can say the same/' Rodney said. 

Then the D.C. came up, and the men excused themselves and 
went to a spare bathroom to wash off the mud and dirt of the road 
and the Gond village. 

"I didn't know you knew Kishanpur," Max said, slapping cold water 
over his face. 

Rodney said, "That goes back a long time, too— to my great-grand- 
father. He and the Kishanpurs fought in the Mutiny together ... on 
opposite sides. Remember Sumitra Rawan, the Rani of Kishanpur?" 

"My God!" Max said softly. "That one. You really are mixed up 
with India, aren't you?" 

The woman on the veranda was also a Rani of Kishanpur, and 
she was also called Sumitra; but when you mentioned those names, 
without qualification, it was taken for granted that you meant the 
famous heroine of 1857. She had led cavalry charges against the 
British in the Great Mutiny of that year, and had finally vanished, 
no one knew where or how. Some said it was to refuge in Nepal or 
Tibet; some said, into a Hindu ashram; some said, to lie unknown 
among the dead of the last great battle of the Mutiny. 

Rodney said, "She and my great-grandfather tried to kill each 
other— and fell in love. Things like that used to happen. They still 
do. . . . The two families have had a sort of foster-brother relation- 
ship ever since. They sent Dip Rao, the present Rajah, to stay with 
us in England for a time when he was a kid— he and I shared a nanny. 
The same with our parents and grandparents. But I have not met 
Sumitra, for reasons doubtless well known to you." 

The D.C. came in, curling his beard with his fingers. "Well known 
to the entire population of India, I'm afraid. She's intelligent and, 
somehow, not selfish, though. And she's not a nymphomaniac. What- 
ever it is, it's not that . . . though I don't doubt she's— er, in- 
terested—and interesting." 

Max dried his hands, shaking his head. It was a sad business. Dip 
Rao Rawan, the Rajah of Kishanpur, was about Rodney's age— thirty- 
five or thirty-six. He'd married this girl from an old Mahratta family 

2 7 



a good many years ago, about '36 — and hardly seen her since. 

The French Riviera knew the beautiful Rani of Kishanpur. 
Kitzbiihel and La Baule and Monte Carlo knew her; Claridge's and 
the Meurice and the Waldorf knew her— but, only very seldom, and 
for short visits, the ancient State of Kishanpur. Her love affairs, faith- 
fully reported in shiny socialite papers and by word of mouth, were 
famous throughout the last years before the war, and during the war— 
which she had seemed to have spent shuttling between the Bahamas, 
New York, and Chile. It wasn't the affairs themselves that caused 
the furor so much as the bizarre objects of them: a Russian count 
who was certainly an impostor; a middle-aged American con man 
who'd later gone to jail; a Cuban painter who had almost, but not 
quite, become famous; a young Croat revolutionary who later suf- 
focated himself in an asylum, using his own shirt. . . . The list was 
long, and full of violent lights. Yet you couldn't help liking her 
when you met her; and though the big, dark eyes settled speculatively 
on all men, they had never seemed to Max to be predatory, still less, 
calculating. Rather they were inquiring, and direct— who are you, 
what are you, what makes you go? She was at home now, with Dip. 
He saw a good deal of them, for Kishanpur was only forty-seven 
miles east of his own headquarters in Bhowani. 

"Shall we join the ladies?" he said formally. 

"You're going to be my guests," the D.C. said, "though I think I 
shall be sick if I even smell alcohol. I've got a couple of bottles of 
Black Label. My bearer should have put them out already." 

The three men walked together down the central passage and out 
onto the veranda. Rodney said, "I'll be with you in a minute," and 
went on down the steps to his jeep, parked in the shade of a tree 
across the drive. Max, turning aside to join the women at the small 
table set up with drinks, saw his friend lean in over the jeep side 
and put his hand on his chauffeur's shoulder. Ratanbir smiled rue- 
fully and patted his own head. So even he, a Gurkha, had a hangover. 
It must have been a long night. 

The Rani's husky, very French-sounding voice broke in on Max's 
thoughts : "The colonel knows how to handle the natives, I see." 

Max answered shortly, "When he has to, Rodney can handle 
anyone— one way or another." 

"So Dip tells me," she said. "Except, perhaps, himself." 

The jeep drove away and Rodney joined them. The D.C. rose to 

28 



his feet, a glass of lemonade in his hand. "Ladies and gentlemen— as 
Indians, I ask you to join me in a toast to an Englishman, who 
yesterday saved our government a great deal of embarrassment, and 
also probably saved a score of lives— Rodney Savage." 

Max quickly poured himself a lemonade and raised his glass. "You 
were bloody marvelous, Rodney." 

The women murmured politely and sipped their fruit juice. Max 
began to relate the whole story, from the beginning. Every now and 
then Rodney threw in derisive comments and humorous pastiches of 
things seen, and soon they were all laughing. Max noticed the Rani's 
steady, weighing look fixed on Rodney. Janaki also was watching him, 
less obviously, and also seemed to be weighing, and judging, as 
though she had never met him before — although actually she knew 
him well. They had met soon after his marriage, when Rodney had 
first joined the i/i3th Gurkhas in Peshawar as a very young second 
lieutenant and he himself was a senior lieutenant of the Dogra 
Regiment— fifteen years ago, good heavens. 

When he finished his tale, Rodney said, "Taken by itself, without 
meaning, it was a good time— that trip to Bhilghat. . . . That's what 
people like me love about India. To us that is India. We haven't had 
much contact with people like you, for reasons you know as well as 
I do — our political dominance, our destruction of your class, your 
sulking in your tents. But we knew the poor, the peasants, those 
who live in the woods and the mountains ... in the past, if you 
like." 

"Kept there, sometimes," the D.C. interposed softly, brushing up 
his mustache. 

"Yes . . . but damn it, Ranjit, the Gonds are different, so are 
the Bhils, and the Nagas, and the Mishmis, and . . ." 

"And the Lahoulis?" the D.C. asked, naming a hill people who 
lived on the high northern border, touching Tibet. Those Rodney 
had named were more decidedly "tribal," mostly animist in religion 
and Stone Age in culture. 

"The Lahoulis are a borderline case," Rodney said. His face was 
eager and alive, his eyes sparkling. 

The D.C. said, "I'm afraid there can't be borderline cases now. 
There can't even be enclaves of quaint old customs, needing special 
handling till Doomsday. We haven't got the time. In England you 
couldn't accept the idea that the people of Lancashire were a special 

2 9 



tribe which had to be specially handled, their speech preserved, 
schools kept away from them so that they'd always remain isolated. 
At least you never have. Nor can we accept the idea of 'reservations/ 
like the Americans." 

"Suppose they don't want to go to school?" Rodney said. "Sup- 
pose they don't want to join the modem world?" 

"They have no choice," the D.C. said. "History is marching in a 
certain direction, and they are going with it— whether they go 
willingly or get trampled on." 

Max sipped his lemonade and thought sadly, the D.C. was quite 
right; the Prime Minister was quite right; nevertheless, it was a pity. 
How many generations, how many short years, would pass before 
such a way of life as they had entered last night would vanish forever 
from the jungles, along with the handmade pottery, the wood crafted 
by their own hands, the weapons shaped by love and ancient skill? 
In all that village there probably were not ten rupees' worth of 
articles that had not been wholly made there. 

"Go willingly or get trampled on," Rodney repeated slowly. He 
stared into his orange juice. "You'll have plenty doing both . . . 
and sometimes the people concerned won't even know which they 
want to do, or are doing. For God's sake, though, Ran jit, go as slowly 
as you can, as carefully as you can. A tribal, patriarchal society may be 
a pain in the neck to you and Nehru, but it means a lot to the people 
who live inside it. It's all that holds them together— and not only 
the group, but the man himself, inside himself." 

He finished his juice quickly and poured out a whisky and soda. 
Sumitra of Kishanpur said, "You seem to have found a solution, 
without going or getting trampled on." 

Rodney nodded. "I travel all over India. I have responsibility. 
In a way, I'm getting many of the advantages of the Raj without the 
disadvantages— all India to roam in . . . reasonable independence 
. . . general control from the Viceroy— I beg his pardon, I mean the 
Managing Director . . . policy from a board room in London. It 
doesn't seem very different, sometimes. And yet— it's strange, being 
an outsider. Just watching India, instead of being a part of it. On 
that basis I can't get trampled on. But sometimes I can hardly bear 
it. I was not born to be a bystander, not in India. I'd rather have 
the involvement, like last night— and the trampling." 

The D.C. said slowly, "I'm afraid that's what it would be." 

3° 



The jeep drove up from the direction of the town. Ratanbir came 
to the veranda steps, saluted, and handed Rodney two letters. 

"Am chhaina?" 

"Teti ho f hujoor." 

Rodney said, "Excuse me," and opened one of the letters. Max 
turned to his wife with small talk, and Sumitra to the Deputy Com- 
missioner. It took Rodney a long time to read the letters, and before 
he had finished them the D.C. told his servant to serve lunch. 

Rodney stood up, folding the letters carefully and putting them 
in his pocket. "I'll have to be off now," he said, smiling. "Thank you 
so much for the drinks. And thank you, collector, for allowing me 
to come with you yesterday." 

Max rose. "But, Rodney, aren't you staying for lunch? I 
thought . . ." 

"I'm afraid I'll have to go. Business before pleasure, you know. 
McFadden Pulley need me." 

"But surely . . ." 

He felt a sharp pain in his foot and grimaced involuntarily. Look- 
ing down he saw that Sumitra, Rani of Kishanpur, had jabbed her 
stiletto heel into his instep. "See you later, then," she was saying, 
smiling sweetly, "I'm going back tomorrow, but Max and Janaki 
will be here for a week, and you know you have a standing invitation 
to Kishanpur." 

"Thanks. Yes. Good-by." The Englishman ran quickly down the 
steps and jumped into the jeep. Ratanbir engaged gear and the little 
vehicle drove away. 

Max said, "I'm sure he said he'd have lunch here." 

Janaki said, "Darling, you are very dense sometimes." 

"I was never supposed to be very bright," Max said. "What's the 
matter?" 

"Couldn't you see? The letters." 



Chapter 5 



After dinner General Dadhwal, dressed now in lightweight trousers 
of black cotton and a long, high-buttoning jodhpur coat of white silk, 
left the dak bungalow and walked slowly toward the town. Janaki 
told him he must go and see Rodney; he himself wasn't sure. Janaki 
said Rodney had had to make a tremendous effort to hide his shock 
while reading the letters. Janaki said she'd never seen a man hit by a 
bullet in a vital part of his body, but that's what it made her think 
of, watching Rodney from the corner of her eye. "He didn't gasp 
or wince. I don't think a muscle of his face moved. He turned pale, 
then fought to get the color back. His hands began to clench and he 
fought to make them relax. You must go . . ." All this in the 
darkened bedroom after lunch, while he prepared to take a nap. 

But what right does a man have to intrude on another man, Max 
thought unhappily? Women don't understand. They can't hide their 
misery from another woman, so they don't try to. Every woman is 
part of the club, Womanhood. Someone's husband runs away, she 
likes her friends to come and comfort her. We don't. We're all as 
lonely as the single stag under the shade by the stream. 



. . . After ten o'clock, and a hint of the first fresh breeze of the 
cold weather to come; not here yet, for it was only September, but 
promising to come, in the clear atmosphere and the fading rains. . . . 

The quarries, still ablaze with lights, were at the near end of the 
town, and McFadden Pulley's guest house nearer still, only a quarter 
of a mile from the dak bungalow. Light poured out from a front 
window, and there was a huge black car-shape silhouetted in front 
of it. He came close and saw that it was an old Bentley tourer. He 
shook his head and whistled in admiration. Those things went about 
six miles to the gallon. Rodney must be doing very well for himself. 
He squared his shoulders and walked up onto the veranda, and in 
through the double doors. A door on the left stood ajar and light 
streamed out over the coir matting on the hall floor. He knocked 
and called quietly, "Rodney? It's Max." 

"Max? There's a man who's always welcome. Come on in." 

Rodney was sprawled in one of the long cane chairs that were the 
feature of every dak bungalow, club, and guest house in India, its 
arms extended into leg rests, his long legs raised onto them. Two 
bottles of whisky stood on the table beside him, one of them three- 
quarters empty. There were two zinc buckets on the floor, filled with 
ice and bottles of soda water. Half a dozen empty soda bottles stood 
in a military rank against the wall. 

"Sit down. Pour yourself a drink." His eyes were bloodshot and 
his voice a little slurred. "I don't want to get drunk to forget," 
Rodney said "—only to remember. And perhaps to shake up the 
machinery inside my head. The old equipment doesn't seem to be 
able to deal with things quite as efficiently as it used to." 

Max poured a drink and sat down. "What's happened? If I 
can . . . Well, damn it, I'm here." 

"Because Janaki sent you, I'll bet. You can hide nothing from a 
good woman. You can hide anything from a good man— the better, 
the easier, if you follow me. And you are very very good, Max. . . . 
What shall I do? Rather, what will I do? Not what should I do. 
Certainly not! What will I do? Me, the ruthless chap looking after 
poor me. What will Me do? Wait till next week's thrilling install- 
ment . . . Will Me go willingly or will Me be trampled on? Will Me 
find a new way to Happiness? ... It was like having a lover, a 
married woman. You got her by force perhaps in the beginning— not 
rape-force, just power, and you didn't have to use it. Women like 

33 



power because they need it. Yet they dislike you for having it, and 
dislike themselves for liking it ... So part of her always hated you 
for that, and another part was flattered. You were strong and the 
husband wasn't. Then in time you fell in love, and there were enough 
times of physical ecstasy, power and sensuality fused, so that she fell 
in love too, a little. You thought it would go on forever. But it 
wouldn't, and her husband claimed her, softly, inevitably. You 
hadn't noticed it, but the tide was going out. She floated out and 
away. She had to. High and dry, now your power's gone, the sheer 
hypnotic power of the erect and rampant stallion gone . . . You 
know the feeling, when a woman says sadly, 'You'd better go now*? 
No, perhaps you don't, Max . . ." 

"What's happened?" Max asked again, speaking very gently. 
Rodney was talking about the mysterious woman again, and yet Max 
was sure it wasn't really a woman. At least, not any one woman. He 
wondered suddenly whether his friend had become impotent. One of 
the letters might be from his doctor confirming that there was no 
cure. 

Rodney put his hand in his pocket and brought out the two 
letters. Max did not think, from the clean folds, that he had looked 
at them since the first time at the dak bungalow. It was a rare man 
who could do that. "This one is from McFadden Pulley. From Sir 
Andrew Graham, in person. He deeply regrets not having been able 
to tell us before, but the negotiations were of such delicacy that, 
etcetera, etcetera. In other words, the other chaps insisted on 
secrecy . . . McFadden Pulley, private sterling company, is being 
sold to a public company, Indian owned. The people who are 
floating the new company have declared as policy that all non-Indian 
executives will be replaced within five years, three quarters of them 
within one year. With generous compensation, of course—subject to 
Indian income tax of, say, 97 per cent." 

He drank unhurriedly, almost lovingly, from his tall glass. 

Max said, "But you've done well, Rodney. They may keep you 
for the five years." 

"I am the most recently acquired non-Indian, bar two youngsters 
in Bombay. Anyway, it's only a question of time . . . and I'm 
damned well not going to go on, business-as-usual, knowing that these 
chaps are playing Russian roulette with my head. No, I'd have to get 
out sooner or later, and it will be sooner— because of my addiction 

34 



to duty. The new owners are a canny bunch. They're giving a nice 
directorship to an important Congressman. Guess who. L. P. Roy." 

"Oh, my God/' Max breathed. Rodney Savage was one of the few 
army officers whose name was known to political India. Two years 
earlier he had hunted down and shot the Communist firebrand K. P. 
Roy, while the latter was causing riots and sabotage in Bhowani. 
The fact that K. P. Roy had also attempted to assassinate Mahatma 
Gandhi, and had caused the deaths of many innocent Indians, had 
been played down in Nationalist circles; Roy was anti-British, and 
that was enough. This man L. P. Roy, now to be a director of 
McFadden Pulley, had made an attempt to have Rodney court- 
martialed shortly after the incident. He was K.P.'s younger brother. 

"A more dangerous character than K.P.," Rodney said cheerfully. 
"I rather liked K.P. He was a Communist, but he had a sense of 
humor. I haven't met L.P., but of course I've heard and read a good 
deal about him. His brother was a tiger— this one's a man, a twisted, 
tortured fanatic. As a matter of fact, it wasn't I who actually shot K.P. 
Another chap did . . . But it doesn't matter. I'm afraid, Max, it 
wouldn't matter if they promised to keep me on for thirty years. 
I've seen Indian businesses at work. This is where I discover I'm 
English. This is the parting of the ways." 

"You'd have stayed on in the army if they'd let you, wouldn't 
you?" Max said. 

Rodney looked up, grinning with the slightly wolfish grin that Max 
remembered best about him; it had been most common when he was 
under strain, in battle. "The Indian Army," he said, "is not an Indian 
business— yet. It rests exactly in the mode and tradition we made it. 
It will remain that way just as long as people like you are in charge. 
You don't think or act like an Indian, even though you do put on 
protective camouflage sometimes, like that jodhpur coat . . . That 
will change. Your political bosses don't like it now and they'll force 
the change. In a few years they'll find chaps who think their way, not 
yours, and they'll push them to the top. The pressure will come from 
inside, from underneath, too. Remember Iqbal?" 

"Commanding the 9/2 1st Punjabis?" 

"Yes. Just after the war nearly all his officers were Indian. His 
adjutant borrowed a battalion truck for nonmilitary purposes— took 
his wife and kids to the flicks in it— not five hours after signing a 
strict order of Iqbal's against such practices. Iqbal sacked him. Well, 

35 



the adjutant's wife was a friend of Iqbal's wife. Know what hap- 
pened? Iqbal's wife refused to sleep with him unless he reinstated 
the chap as adjutant. . . . Things like that will happen. There's an 
Indian way of dealing with them, I'm sure, and that's how they will 
be dealt with. But there's no British way of dealing with them. Iqbal 
was helpless. Know what he did? Applied for more British junior 
officers. Of course, there weren't any to be had. . . . No, the bell has 
sounded. I realize now that I've been waiting for it, listening for it, 
ever since Independence. I got absolutely soused that night . . . Per- 
haps that's what made yesterday, with the Gonds, so particularly 
wonderful. The roulette game's ended, the revolver's gone off, and I'm 
dead. But I won't lie down. I'm not going to go quietly. I'm going 
to fight, Max." 

Max poured himself another drink. He felt much more unhappy 
than Rodney seemed to. "There must be lots of good jobs for you," 
he said. "You have so many friends here . . ." 

Rodney went on as though he had not spoken: "I'm not going to 
go quietly, and I'm not going to stay quietly. Not like Great-aunt 
Mary . . . great-aunt by marriage. She's still here. Running a hill 
station hotel on the road to Lansdowne. Her friends used to go up 
and down in tongas and ekkas, and break journey there overnight. 
She made a good living, and the place was always full of handsome, 
sunburned sahibs and pretty ladies and rosy children. Then they built 
a motor road, and the traffic went by without stopping, though most 
of her friends would at least have a cup of tea. Then her generation 
got old, or retired, or were killed. Then no one came, except a few 
Indians, who were terribly polite to her. For ten years no one at all. 
She's still there, nearly ninety, enormous wooden building, no serv- 
ants but a crazy cook about the same age, with the same ideas and the 
same dreams, though he's a U.P. Muslim. She dresses every night for 
dinner in the gown she wore at Curzon's Viceregal Ball in '04, and 
eats a can of bully beef once a week, and the dust lies like a dense 
silent carpet over everything, and all the glass broken, and langurs 
swinging from the pines behind the house into the upstairs rooms. Is 
that what you'd like me to do?" 

Max made a helpless gesture with his hands. 

"What about smuggling? That's more like it, for me. What about 
armed dacoity? It's all here still, under the surface, the India my great- 
grandfather lived with, and the ones before him ... It wouldn't be 

36 



hard to re-create the Pindaris, motorized. With a little bit of skill and 
luck a thousand properly led men could take over a province, or a 
district at least— all in the most proper manner, votes and all . . . 
and I'd be in the background, just like the old days." 

"You can't turn the clock back, Rodney," Max said. 

"Who says?" 

"No one can. Besides, you'd have to go back too far. For the past 
century and a half you've been building things up here, not tearing 
them down. You've done the work pretty well, too. We might tear 
ourselves apart— but you couldn't. Anyway, you're joking . . ." 

"Believe me, I'm not." 

"Rodney, be patient. Just wait a bit. Remember your friends. India 
badly needs people like you, and there are enough of us, and we're 
strong enough not to have to take dictation from anyone, not even 
Nehru. If you want to stay, we'll find something good, and worthy 
of you." 

Rodney was looking at him, and seemed to be weighing his words. 
At last he said, "Tomorrow I shall probably agree with you. I shall 
probably do just what you recommend. At this moment I want to 
fight. I know you've had the feeling. Twice in your life, eh? Once, 
when that fellow yelled at you to stop playing bloody Wog music 
in the mess." 

Max nodded. Rodney was referring to the incident which had given 
him his nickname, and made him popular with the inscrutable Eng- 
lish. When he joined his Dogra battalion in 1927 the senior subaltern 
was a man who disliked educated Indians, though he loved the sepoys 
well enough. Max, the new second lieutenant, liked to play Indian 
music on the mess phonograph. The senior subaltern ordered him 
not to, in the language quoted by Rodney. Max respectfully refused 
to obey. The feud went on for three years until, in 1930, the senior 
subaltern seized his pile of records and smashed them on the stone 
floor. Max knocked him out. Hence the name "Max," for "Max 
Schmeling"; and hence one year's loss of leave privileges. A well- 
deserved punishment, Max thought. Right or wrong, the fellow was 
his senior officer, and there were other, proper channels of complaint. 

Rodney continued: "The second time was just after Independence, 
when Nehru and the boys wanted to promote some of the I.N. A. 
fellows, and you and Des and N. P. Satish and Chandra went and 
said that if they were made heroes, after what they'd done to Indian 

37 



prisoners in Singapore, you were going out." 

Max nodded again. The Japanese had formed the Indian National 
Army from Indian soldiers who fell prisoner into their hands in 
Malaya and Singapore. Himself, he had never felt strongly for or 
against the I.N.A., as an institution. There were many ways of being 
an Indian patriot in those days before Independence. But he and 
other Indian regulars could not forgive the I.N.A.'s treatment of such 
men as Hari Badhwar and Dhargalkar, who had refused to join it. 
Them the I.N.A. had hung up by the thumbs, tortured, starved for 
months in solitary confinement. When the Congress leaders wanted 
to idolize the I.N. A. Max knew again— he had to fight. 

Rodney said, "Well ... I feel now that I have to fight. And even 
though tomorrow I may decide not to, the need to fight will be very 
close under the surface, just suppressed. Remember that, Max, re- 
member." 

Max said, "What about the other letter?" 

"Ah, that. You ought to read that. It would make you cry. Cry for 
the gulf between people who are supposed to know each other pretty 
well. But I won't give it to you, because it is a caddish thing to do, to 
reveal the soul of a lady . . . This is from Frances Clayton, my ex- 
fiancee." 

"Ex!" 

"It was written before the McFadden Pulley letter, so she knew 
nothing about that. She informs me she cannot face the prospect of 
living in India the rest of her life. I must go home to England, where 
brother John can guarantee me a good job with an M.P. subsidiary 
run by the people who own— used to own— M.P. She begs me to come 
to Delhi to discuss it. She's a nice girl, Max. Very nice. If you can 
call a woman of twenty-nine a girl. I suppose so. Unfortunately, I 
don't love her." 

"Don't say it!" Max cried. "Go to Delhi and talk to her. It'll be 
all right." 

"I doubt it," Rodney said, grinning. "It took me time to get over 
Victoria Jones, the Anglo-Indian girl I met in Bhowani in '46, 
during the K. P. Roy affair. That was probably an attempt to avoid 
expulsion from India, the psychologists would say. There was an 
earlier love, which I shall never get over. Now I've spent a year of 
chastity for the sake of Frances, who is a very decent young woman— 
but nice, don't forget that. Today, looking at Sumitra got me by the 

38 



balls, and I'm sure I could love her if things worked out that way. 
But they won't. . . . Meanwhile the manager of the cement works 
has informed me that the local harlots are superannuated, diseased, 
or both. He himself always sends to a little village called Pattan— it's 
hidden in the jungles behind Lapri— where there are a pair of beauties. 
I have already taken his advice. Ratanbir went with the company 
jeep to fetch the girls some time ago. He ought to be back any 
moment." 

"Ratanbir!" Max exclaimed. "You wouldn't have . . ." 

"No," Rodney said, smiling the wolfish smile. "I wouldn't have. I 
have never involved any soldier or servant or friend in anything of the 
kind, as far as in me lay. That is the sahib's way. I am no longer a 
sahib. ... I won't ask you to stay, because I know you— and I know 
Janaki. Thanks for coming. Good night, old boy." 

Max stopped in the doorway. "For God's sake, Rodney, remember 
what I said. You're not alone." 

Rodney stood in the middle of the room, unswaying, smiling, saying 
nothing. Max strode heavily out and down the veranda steps. In the 
drive the headlights of the jeep flared onto him, half blinding him. 
When it had passed, slowing rapidly, he noticed two women, their 
saris drawn across their faces, sitting huddled together in the back 
seat behind the dark, stolid silhouette of Ratanbir. 

Arrived back at the dak bungalow, Max felt very tired. I'm forty- 
four, he thought, but sometimes I feel like ninety. Perhaps it had 
something to do with the long fight for Independence, twenty years 
of being shot at from two sides, the anti-Indian British sneering at 
him for a Wog, the anti-British Indians sneering at him for a lackey. 
Rodney's reminding him of it had brought out the feeling of fatigue, 
of sheer exhaustion, that used to assail him. There had been days 
when he felt he had lost all his friends, all love, everything. Only an 
inner conviction that he was doing right, could indeed do no other, 
had supported him, and a sense that the tide must turn, and bring 
all to him— freedom, and respect, and love. 

To his embarrassment he found Sumitra the Rani sitting in the 
main room with his wife. He had not had time to adjust his face, and 
came in showing the heavy thoughts that had weighed on his mind, 
as after a bloody failure in Burma, and for the same reason— the 
inevitability, and the waste. 

"What's happened? What's the matter with him?" Janaki was on 

39 



her feet, her hand urgent on his sleeve. 

He said, "Quite a lot, I'm afraid." 

He sat down and told them, as briefly as he could, about Rodney's 
state. When he ended he looked up and saw tears glistening in his 
wife's lower lashes and a shining wet line down her left cheek. 
Sumitra's heavy, perfectly curved brows were bent down in a frown 
over her huge eyes. It was she who spoke first. "A casualty of history. 
Just as the D.C. said." 

Janaki muttered, "But it's dreadful. He wouldn't be a casualty if he 
didn't care." 

Sumitra said, "Unfortunately, that is always true, everywhere, 
nahin?" 

Her eyes shone and the frown had gone, and her face had taken 
back its ancient-seeming statuary beauty. She stood up, the rich sari 
rustling heavily over her thighs. She arranged the end of it lightly 
over her head, drawing it over the curve of her breast in a slow sweep- 
ing motion of great provocativeness. 

"I will go to him," she said. "Casualties need nurses." 

After a moment of stunned inaction Max sprang to his feet. 
"Sumitra, I don't think . . . he's drinking, you know. He must have 
put away a bottle by now. It's bound to hit him soon." 

"Perhaps I can stop him drinking," Sumitra said, smiling slightly. 

"Really," Max mumbled, "really, I wouldn't, I don't think 
you . . ." 

She gazed at him steadily. "You mean he has more than a couple 
of bottles to keep him company?" 

"Yes," Max mumbled. He felt acutely uncomfortable. This woman 
was pure Indian by blood, by manner pure foreign— French perhaps, 
French grande-dame, courtesan, actress, God knows what. 

"You're blushing like a schoolgirl, Max. I shall go to him. No, I'd 
rather walk." She spoke with finality, and, trailing her hand in a 
small graceful gesture, left the room. 

Max blew out his cheeks in a long sigh. "I need another drink," he 
said. "She's incredible. Rodney's got two girls from some village there 
—tarts. Heaven knows what they'll be doing by the time Sumitra 
arrives. . . . She's immoral! And yet, I don't think she's going down 
there for her own sake, for her own gratification, do you? ... I sup- 
pose it's a wonderful thing to do, when you think of it, even though 
he has two tarts with him . . . especially if he has two tarts with 

40 



him." He found the whisky in the corner cupboard and poured out 
a stiff peg. "She doesn't give a damn. Poor Dip . . . poor Rodney. 
I wish I knew what he was talking about, half the time. Some woman 
who's his ideal. They were lovers and then she left him . . . grew 
away. He said it was inevitable. Because she was Indian? I'm not sure 
he said that, but I somehow feel that's what he meant." 

He was talking to himself, revolving his glass in his hand, staring 
at the tabletop, trying to see in its polished teak surface the solution 
of Rodney's riddles and allusions, trying to bring into the framework 
of his common sense these mysteries of sensitivity which so many 
others, especially Indians, knew about while he didn't. Well, I'm a 
Jat, he thought. We're supposed to be as dense as buffaloes . . . 

He looked up and saw his wife's head bent over the table, her hands 
to her face. The violence of her silent sobbing had loosened the 
fastenings of her hair, and already it was falling down. He stumbled 
to his feet, whispering, "Kya hua, piari?" and stretched out his hand 
to her. It brushed hard against her shaking head and completed the 
undoing of the smooth-swept hair. Her head bent farther down and 
her black hair swept out across the table, a shining river of light 
and shadow. 

Max gasped, and staggered. "Janaki!" he cried. 

The hidden head nodded and the hair moved on the table, heaving 
and writhing and then lying again still, a dark river, frozen in motion. 
The hair fell back and her face came up, tear streaked, working, ugly 
in grief. 

"Yes. Yes, it was I. All true. The love, why it came . . . and what 
kind. What happened afterward . . . true ... all so many years ago 
... I was not hurt, till now, now, when it's all been over so long. 
He's only hurt because he cared. And I can't do anything for him, 
I just can't . . . I'm your wife. I always have been." Again her head 
sank, and again the heavy sobbing filled the room. 

The general looked at her a long time. Hers was the flowing hair 
that haunted Rodney Savage's dreams. He himself was the husband 
who had possessed, but not possessed. The same man who had saved 
his career had taken his honor. A surge of anger rose slowly in him 
and his thick fingers clenched. 

Why hadn't they run away together? Why was she still here? Why 
had she stayed with him all these years, fourteen years since the 
Peshawar days? Fourteen years of love, comradeship, affliction, part- 



ings, joinings, children. The woman of Rodney's dream was Janaki, 
but it was also India. 

The astrologer had chosen the date for his marriage, but he'd had 
to change it— exigency of the service. So perhaps these sorrows were 
inevitable, no human being to blame. It seemed to him, as the anger 
sank and vanished, to be replaced by a deep thankfulness, that per- 
haps he could never suffer, now, as Rodney and Janaki had, and 
would. 

He walked round the table, gathered his wife gently in his arms, so 
that her face rested against his shoulder, and carried her to their room, 
murmuring to her in their own language as he went. 



42 



Chapter 4 



Frances Clayton turned the page and glanced up. The three over- 
stuffed armchairs were arranged in a group at the edge of the lawn, 
just in the shade of the trees. From behind the trees, beyond the low 
brick wall, came the hum of motor traffic and the steady clip-clop of 
a tonga pony's hoofs. 

A sudden jangle of the tonga bell made her start. On the invisible 
road someone poured out a torrent of blurred, angry Hindustani. 
Someone else answered, other voices joined in . . . Another near 
miss, another argument, Indians yelling and screaming at each other. 
Why couldn't they settle their differences sensibly, without hysterics 
and bad temper? And dust everywhere even though the rains were 
hardly over. Frowning, she looked at the men in the other two chairs. 

"I think you're mistaking Roy's character. He's not cheap. It's not 
you he's against, but all British. And you're overestimating his in- 
fluence. The men who have floated the new company are out to make 
money . . ." 

That was her brother John speaking. A ray of sunlight streaming 
through the branches had landed, like a magician, on his head, mak- 

43 



ing the thin blond hairs vanish and turning the head into a pink 
football. His long face was pale, and he seemed worried, as usual. 
Well, now he'd got something to worry about. 

He continued: "You don't seem to realize that you've made more 
money for M.P. in one year than I have in twenty— well, say thirteen, 
not counting the years I was in the army. That bakelite deal which 
you suggested has been snowballing ever since." 

"I heard it was going well. But all I did was read that this American 
chemical wizard was in Bombay, and go and see him." 

"Yes, but no one else did. I wouldn't have." 

No, Frances thought, you wouldn't. You wouldn't want to push 
in on a stranger, even though his ideas might possibly produce busi- 
ness. You would remember that you were in the Shipping Department 
and this was the Coal Department's pigeon— if it was anyone's. You 
wouldn't risk wasting time you might have spent with a fishing rod. 
Sensibly, you would have worked out that the chances were a thou- 
sand to one against, and you would have been right. Rodney was just 
lucky. 

'The truth is," John continued, "I am far more likely than you are 
to be in the first 75 per cent sacked." 

Rodney said, "You can count me out of the musical chairs. I wrote 
to Graham yesterday, resigning my . . . commission in the Imperial 
Army of Scottish Merchants Trading to the East Indies." 

"You did!" Frances exclaimed. She laid down her book and gave 
up the pretense of reading. She smiled warmly at him. Since arriving 
in Delhi the day before yesterday he had said nothing about her 
letter. She had been afraid to broach the subject. Rodney was not a 
man you gave ultimatums to lightly. That was one of the things she 
liked about him. When they were married, there would be no doubt 
who wore the trousers. She despised henpecked husbands. 

"I did," Rodney said. He poured himself a stiff whisky with very 
little soda. Frances frowned. That was his third already. It was Sun- 
day morning, yes, but hardly half past eleven yet. He was drinking 
much more than he used to. That was India, again. It had a terrible 
effect on people. 

Rodney said, "Roy or no Roy, I'm not going to work for a Marwari- 
owned firm. I'm not saying they'll be more corrupt than us, or less 
efficient. I'm just saying they'll be different, in method and outlook 
and thought. I'm too old to change my whole personality." 

44 



There was silence. Now should she ask, Frances wondered, now 
should she ask the obvious question— what are you going to do? 
Better let John ask it, she decided. A few minutes later he did. Frances 
waited, her hands tensed in her lap. 

Rodney answered with another question. He said, "Do you know 
what kind of jobs M.P. are going to offer us in England?" 

"Not exactly/' John said, "but it's not hard to guess. Something 
in the City. They're connected with investment banks and shipping. 
I imagine we'd have to spend a year or two as glorified office boys, 
until we find our own level. You needn't worry." 

Rodney sat with head thrown back, staring up at the leaves. Lon- 
don, she thought. If he has to go to the City to work, I suppose we'd 
start in a semidetached house in one of those ghastly suburbs you 
get to from London Bridge or Holborn Viaduct. It wouldn't take 
Rodney long to reach the top, though, and then they could move 
out to Surrey. Or perhaps Buckinghamshire. A big house that looked 
old but wasn't, with decent plumbing ... a garden with a high 
wall round it; a tennis court; quiet, leafy roads, errand boys on 
bicycles, whistling, but not yelling at each other; voices that were 
never raised, and meat that tasted like meat; peace, and decency, and 
a soft light, air that did not feel as though they were rubbing sand- 
paper into your skin; the windows open winter and summer, no snakes 
or dust storms or howling monsoon rains flooding the drive and turn- 
ing the lawn into a lake and carrying dead rats down the open drainage 
ditches . . . Her eyes slipped into focus and she found she was 
staring at the mali. He was squatting over the zinnia bed, the hose 
in his hand. 

"Not now!" she called. "Nahin, nahinl Pichche . . . When the 
sun's off them." 

The mali salaamed and dragged the hose somewhere else. How 
often have I told him? she thought. They don't listen. Rodney was 
looking at her, frowning as though in thought. I ought to have learned 
better Hindustani in my time here, she thought. But I didn't want to. 

Rodney said, "Come out for a drive, Frances. We'll be back for 
lunch." 

She stood up at once. "Wait a minute while I change my shoes." 

She went to her room and looked at herself in the mirror. A little 
more lipstick, smarter shoes, and . . . that dress looked dowdy. She 
changed quickly into a blue linen suit. 

45 



Rodney was waiting in the driver s seat of the huge old Bentley. 
That was a terrible waste of money, she thought. She hoped he 
wouldn't try to take it Home. Besides costing a fortune in petrol it 
was rather flashy— not like an American car but . . . just too much. 
It would create a bad impression in England, especially in the kind 
of place they'd have to live in at first. 

Rodney turned into the road and trod on the accelerator. The warm 
air rushed past and she put her hand to her head as her hair began 
to shake loose. Faster yet, the engine making a continuous burbling 
roar, bicyclists all over the road as usual, talking, hands on each 
other's shoulder, never looking where they were going, never thinking 
of giving a signal . . . 

"Rodney!" she cried. "Please go slower. It's not safe here in Delhi." 

Rodney whipped the Bentley round a traffic circle in a long, squeal- 
ing skid, hurling gravel far out onto the grass lawns beyond. He slowed 
down. "You are quite right," he said gravely. 

She tried to pat her hair back into place. "Where are we going?" 

"The Red Fort," he said. 

She felt a small twinge of unease. The Red Fort was very imposing, 
no one could deny that. It was not picturesque, like an English 
castle— it was just huge, with a gigantic wall all the way round. He 
would want to walk about inside it, among the formal gardens and 
mosques. If only he'd told her, she would have put on a pair of 
wedgies instead of these heels. 

The car slipped noisily through the teeming traffic and soon drew 
up in the parking area outside the main entrance to the Fort. After 
helping her out Rodney stood awhile, gazing up at the Congress flag 
tugging gently at its staff. Then he walked on fast. She hurried to 
catch up with him, and laid her hand on his arm to slow him down. 
Sikh sentries stood stiff as ramrods, bayonets fixed on their rifles, be- 
side the entrance. She thought Rodney would speak to the sergeant 
and other men standing nearby— he usually did, when he met Indian 
soldiers— but he passed without even looking. 

Inside the arched gate they walked down the middle of a high- 
roofed bazaar. On either side shopkeepers called, and thrust out ex- 
amples of their wares. Files of school children scurried by, shepherded 
by young teachers in cheap, pretty saris. There was an overpowering 
smell of jasmine perfume. 

Rodney said, "You don't want to stay in India." 

4 6 



She tightened her hand on his arm. What a place he'd chosen to 
speak about something so terribly important. She had rehearsed, 
many times, what she would say when this moment came. Now she 
found she had to search for the words, and go very carefully. She said, 
"I— honestly, Rod, I don't. I haven't been here long enough. Lots of 
people say you always spend your first five years hating India. I don't 
know enough, the way you do. It can't be home for either of us, of 
course . . . but it's been, well, a special place for you . . . Not for 
me." She hesitated and then got it out in a rush: "It can't be such a 
special place for you any more now, can it? Darling, I do know what 
you feel, but there isn't anything else we can do, now, is there?" He 
did not answer, and she said again, "Is there?" 

"As a matter of fact, there is," he said. "The question is not Can, 
but Will. I'm still not certain what I'm going to do. I've never felt 
like this before in my life. I will do something, I mean I will make 
a decision— but I don't have any idea what it will be or what will 
cause it." 

He looked down at her, his face suddenly inquiring and almost 
anxious. "Do you love me?" he asked. 

She ought to cry out, Of course I do, I love you, I love you! She 
could not say the words. She said, "I don't think I honestly know 
what love is, Rod. I've never lost my appetite, or not been able to 
sleep, or felt simply swept away . . . the things that are supposed to 
happen to people." 

They were passing under another huge arch of pink stone, walking 
down wide steps onto a graveled walk between green lawns. "I respect 
you," she muttered, "I like you, more than any man I've ever met. 
I know that I will come to love you . . . and surely that's the only 
real love, the kind that comes slowly, after years, by living together 
and having affection and respect and— and mutual interests?" 

"No," he said. 

She cried, "But that's why we became engaged! I never pretended. 
I could have!" 

"No, you never pretended," he said wearily. "It is entirely my 
fault." 

I should have lied, she thought in anguish. It's no use trying to be 
honest with men, not even Rodney. She would love him, it would 
come, deep, true, real love . . . but how was she to pretend to have 
a "fever," to shiver and shake and yearn, when she felt nothing of 

47 



the kind— now? And the small nervous voice inside her whispered, 
I don't want to shiver and shake and yearn and be miserable . . . 

She must be sensible. ... He didn't like cities much. He was an 
open-air man. He liked mountains and sea. Perhaps it was the idea 
of the City, and suburbia, that was weighing on him. "You don't have 
to take a McFadden Pulley job in London," she said, speaking rapidly. 
"We could go to Cornwall. Or Devon. Or Somerset. Don't ex-army 
officers often become chief constables of counties? . . . We could 
have a boat in Fowey, and a cottage on Bodmin Moor. You've talked 
a lot about Cornwall . . . the gorse on the cliff paths, the wonderful 
beaches . . . Tintagel . . ." 

Rodney had stopped. He was looking at a white mosque close in 
front of them. He said aloud, "If there be a heaven on earth, it is 
here, it is here, it is here." 

She tugged at his sleeve. "Rodney . . ." 

He said, still gazing at the mosque, "This is the Pearl Mosque, the 
Moti Masjid. Which Mogul emperor had those lines inscribed? Was 
it here or at Shalimar? 'If there be a heaven on earth . . .'" 

She cried, "But oh, Rod, it isn't, not any more, not for you!" 

Rodney began to walk round the mosque, his head up and turned, 
examining it. Before she could catch him or warn him he had walked 
into a party of Indians coming in the other direction, knocking one 
man down. 

Rodney glanced at the man as he struggled to get up. It looked 
like a cold, supercilious stare, but Frances knew that really there was 
no emotion in it of any kind. Rodney's feelings were somewhere else. 
He had not yet realized that it was he standing there, he who had 
knocked the man down. 

The man was on his feet, dusting off his dhoti and adjusting the 
Gandhi cap on his mane of gray hair. He was a dark-visaged man with 
a heavy, square face, thin lips, and deep-set eyes. He snapped, in 
good but accented English, "Do you expect Indians to hurry out of 
your way, still? There is Independence here now, you know." 

Rodney said, "I didn't see you." In another second, she was sure, 
he would have apologized, but the Indian didn't give him time: 
"Because you are drunk! I can smell the whisky on your breath from 
here." 

The others of the group, two men and a pretty, languid woman, 
stood a little back and behind the speaker, as she stood behind Rod- 
ney. 

4 8 



Rodney said, "Oh, for Christ's sake, shut up, and go away." 

One of the other men stepped forward pompously. "Do you realize 
who you are insulting? This gentleman is L. P. Roy, M.L.A." 

Rodney stared at L. P. Roy, and bowed slowly. Straightening up, 
he said, "And I am Rodney Savage, O-B-E-M-C." 

Frances watched, anxious yet aware of a warm glow of certainty. 
This must convince him. 

The two men examined each other, the Indian tensed and angry, 
the Englishman loose, staring down, grinning with teeth bared. 

Roy suddenly relaxed. He said, "An employee of McFadden 
Pulley, I think. I saw your name on the list in the prospectus. Well, 
I am on the board to see that people like you do not continue to 
fatten on India." 

Rodney took her arm under his and walked away, toward the outer 
wall. Here, on a wide walk, marble water channels, but empty, ran 
under gateways of marble carved with such delicacy that they seemed 
to be made of lace. Rodney said, "The women of the emperors sat 
here. The water flowed in the channels then, green and cool. The 
emperor sat on the gaddi on that marble bench, facing the crowd, 
some of them in the open and some under the pillars in the shade 
. . . Now you must see how impossible it is." 

"Yes," she said. 

"I can't go. I will fight." 

She felt weak, and sat down on a bench. A passing Indian couple 
examined her curiously. Below her the wall dropped sheer for fifty 
feet. The ground down there was bare and brown and dusty, covered 
with thorn scrub. Ragged strips of canvas spread from thorn to thorn 
made a little shade for a gypsy family engaged in cooking their meal. 
Black-and-brown goats wandered among the thorn, standing on their 
hind legs to pluck leaves from the higher branches. Beyond, the haze 
of heat enveloped the view in a gray pall that united earth and sky. 

He said, "I have asked you to marry me. But we will stay in India." 

He stood beside her, but still not looking at her. He looked out 
over the land, to which he seemed to be speaking. 

She was desperate for a place as a married woman. She could say 
yes, and hope he would change his mind. 

The land out there, and the sky, and the gray haze densely envelop- 
ing them both, was hot and uncomfortable, full of dust. Sun and 
glare, anger and lust, and starved women lying dead in the gutter. She 
could not do it. There was no happiness here for her. 

49 



"Just because an Indian insulted you/' she said heavily. "You're 
mad, Rodney." She gathered strength. "What are you going to fight? 
The Indian Government? L. P. Roy? You can't win. They'll break 
you, and the longer you hang on the worse it will be . . . John 
bends, but you won't. You'll break." 

"Perhaps," he said; "there's always that chance." He spoke as 
though going into a battle, acknowledging the possibility of death. 

"Have you fallen in love with someone else?" she asked suddenly. 

He said, "I have loved two other women. Hopeless cases from the 
beginning. I have met another. A generous, curious woman. I could 
manage to forget her if I left India." 

"Then . . ." 

"Would you arrange to forget your right eye? Leave it behind on a 
hilltop and walk away?" 

"If it hurt enough." 

He shrugged. "That's the eye I see beauty with, and everything 
that's valuable and wonderful. The other one's for earning my living, 
protecting myself, all the necessary, material things." 

She burst out, "How can you ask me to marry you if you are in 
love with someone else?" 

He said, "You are not promising me your love, are you? Respect 
and affection, remember? I can give you that . . . And, I told you, 
I do not love her— yet. Thank God. It looks like another hopeless 
case. But it's possible that I shall. It won't be the first time love has 
grown out of sex." 

She felt cold. "Did you . . . have her?" 

He said, "Yes. After I got your letter. She is stimulating, and inde- 
pendent, and her views on sexuality are original. Well, I suppose 
they're not really, they're just old-fashioned— Hindu old-fashioned— 
but not immoral. She has no morals, of that kind." 

"Did you say ... Is she an Indian?" 

He turned then and looked at her. His expression was very sad. He 
said, "You were on the point of saying 'native,' weren't you? And 
meaning it . . . My poor Frances, you should never have met me. 
Yes, she's Indian." 

Frances groaned. Indian women. Natives. Of course, she had met 
scores of them socially, beautifully dressed, sophisticated, charming 
. . . and never been able to erase from her mind the idea that they 
were only disguised and painted sisters of the dark, dirty beggar 

5° 



women with the matted hair, and the brown and wrinkled sweeper 
witches who cleaned the filth from the streets. 

Rodney said, "If we marry I shall stay physically faithful to you. 
But it must be in India. I can live without physical union with this 
woman— and others— but I cannot live without the atmosphere 
wherein they exist— this air, this dust, these smells, these skies. . . . 
We'd better go back. It's nearly lunchtime." 

"Lunch!" she cried, but she got up. An American with a funny 
white cap was staring at her. She walked at Rodney's side, drying her 
tears with the back of her hand. 

So it was sex. She had known from the beginning that Rodney was 
supposed to be a great lady's man. When he began to pay her atten- 
tion she expected an early attempt at seduction. She had been glad, 
and delightfully surprised, that he had made no such attempt either 
before or during their engagement. She would not have agreed, any- 
way. She was a virgin and meant to remain one until they were 
married; but he had not even tried. Even his kisses had always been 
gentle and proper. She had seen nothing of the Casanova in him . . . 
but it must have been there all the time, held in check by God knows 
what will power, if he was desperate enough to turn to Indians. Had 
she driven him to such a thing? He must be frantic. If they did get 
married, she'd have to live with and assuage this beastly, animal side 
of him . . . yet she could not, would not give up the idea of mar- 
riage. Marriage was her only goal in life. No one but Rodney had 
asked her. She was twenty-nine. 

She drew a deep breath and said, "Rod ... we don't know each 
other ..." 

"Eh? I'm sorry, I didn't hear." 

She felt the hot flush covering her face and neck. She couldn't 
talk about it, she just couldn't. But she could do it. 

She sat preoccupied, trying to conceal her trembling, during the 
drive back to the house at the far end of New Delhi. Before lunch 
she quickly downed two pink gins. John looked at her with eyebrows 
raised, for normally she never drank during the daytime; but Rodney 
did not notice. During the traditional curry and rice meal— why must 
we have it every Sunday? she thought— she drank two gin and tonics. 
Afterward, still queasy at the stomach but exhilarated and determined 
in mind, she caught her brother's arm and muttered, "Take a drive, 
John. A long one. Rod and I have to talk." 



"Oh. Oh, all right." Now it was John who blushed and she thought 
crossly, The wretch! Does he think I do this all the time, that I can't 
wait till bedtime now that Rod's back, even after what presumably 
happened last night? But of course, with Rod's reputation, that's 
probably what he did think. 

She waited, breathless, sitting in the drawing room with a maga- 
zine, until Rodney got up and said, "I'm going to take a nap." 

She waited again, until she heard the door of his bedroom close 
behind him down the passage, then went quickly, on tiptoe, to her 
own room, and took off her clothes. Naked, she glanced at herself in 
the mirror, and hurriedly averted her eyes. Her figure was all right, 
she supposed, but her femaleness looked terribly obvious. Coarse. She 
found a nightgown and slipped it on, brushed her hair and went to 
the door. 

After a long moment of waiting, while the blood pounded in her 
head and her stomach felt painfully empty, so that she thought she 
would faint, she opened the door, ran across the passage in her bare 
feet, opened Rodney's door opposite, and went in. 

He was lying on his back on the bed, staring at the ceiling, naked 
except for a sheet flung loosely across his belly and loins. Slowly the 
scarlet color spread from her neck to her face, to her breasts, to her 
body, down her legs and up her back, to blend again at her neck. She 
tried to keep her head high, looking at him, but it sank of its own 
weight until she was staring at the small Persian rug on the floor. 

He sat up. "You don't have to do this, Frances." 

"I— I want to," she whispered. 

She didn't want to. Perhaps Rod could teach her to want to, some- 
day. Now she was only empty and afraid. 

"You're a liar," he said. "But the real trouble is I don't want to, 
either." 

"Rod!" She ran the few steps to the bed and flung herself onto it, 
crouching beside him, turning to hold him, pressing her breasts 
against him. She put her mouth to his and kissed him, opening her 
lips as she had never done before. She moved against him, and after 
a moment, feeling neither shame nor fear, only desperation, she 
pulled the sheet away, spread her legs and straddled him. 

He lay back. "Frances, it's too late. In the beginning, if I'd tried to 
create this kind of thing between us, perhaps it would be different 
now. Perhaps I'd possess your soul and be eager to follow your body 



anywhere in the world. . . . But I didn't. It's my fault. But it's over." 

She would not surrender. 

Nothing happened, no stir of emotion in herself or in him. She 
began to cry. 

Rodney moved her over gently and eased the pillow under her head. 
"You are a good-looking woman," he said. "It will come out all right, 
with someone else. . . . But, Frances, don't have a purpose for love- 
making. And no duty. Just love, or desire, or both." 

She lay, her eyes closed and her face pressed into the pillow so that 
he should not see them. She controlled herself after a long hard 
struggle, and sat up. She said, "You said you had an idea, about some- 
thing to do in India. What was it?" 

Through the haze of the recent tears she saw him looking at her 
with respect. "You're a hell of a girl, Frances. But don't think of me 
any more. I mean it. This is the end. . . . Yes, I have an idea. I think 
lean make a living, and lead the kind of life I want to, and be my 
own master, in India. I'm going to be a white hunter. I'm going to 
start a shikar camp for rich foreigners." 

He jumped out of bed, found his cheroots, lit one, and jumped back 
in. She found herself noticing dispassionately that he was a lean, 
well-muscled man, densely covered with black hair from the navel 
down to the loins, the chest broad, flat, and hairless. He smiled at 
her and waved the cheroot. "Every year before the war they used to 
extract hundreds of thousands of dollars from Americans in Kenya 
and Uganda and Tanganyika, and what do they have there except 
game? We have the game, and we have India, too. India! Temples, 
maharajahs, nautch girls, the Taj Mahal, Nehru, tall bearded Gurkhas 
waving their keen-edged chilamchis, subtle sinuous Sikhs clamoring 
for more muezzins . . ." 

She found herself smiling. She felt tired but calm. Rodney was not 
going to make love to her and it was quite proper and sensible to be 
sitting up in his bed in a transparent nightie, listening to him talking 
about his plans. That was how she had first met him, only then they'd 
been sitting on the sofa in the drawing room. So, after two years, 
she was back where she'd started, minus a few clothes. She felt like 
a little station on a big railway line. Rodney's train might have 
stopped forever here, but it hadn't. He was on his way again. 

He said, "I've got the place, too. An abandoned Forest Rest House 
beyond Lapri. I had a good look at it last week. The firm leased it 

53 



twenty years ago for some reason and have practically never used it. 
It's nearly falling down but it could be fixed and I know they'll trans- 
fer the lease to me. I'll have to raise a bit of money. It will cost four 
or five thousand rupees just to fix the Rest House. Then I've got to 
buy equipment, tents, camp beds, mosquito nets, rifles to hire out to 
the clients . . ." 

"Station wagons?" she said. 

He waved his cigar energetically. "Not a hope. The road's jeepable 
from the main road as far as Pattan village, but after that there are 
just tracks climbing onto the escarpment. Besides, it isn't going to 
be that sort of safari. I don't want people riding around in station 
wagons thinking they've seen India. They've got to get out in the 
jungles, on their feet." 

She said, "If you're really going to attract the rich ones, you'll have 
to provide some sort of comfort, Rod." 

"Well, yes, something . . . But they must realize they're in a 
jungle, and in India. . . . Then I have to live. There will be servants' 
salaries, shikaris, baksheesh and what not to keep the villagers of 
Pattan in our pocket— and, the biggest expense, advertising, publicity. 
The scheme will sink like a stone unless people hear about it in 
America, and England. . . . I'm going to raise the money from my 
friends, if I can." 

"I'm sure John will lend you some," she said. 

"I'm going to ask him," he said. "I think it will work, and pay a 
good return on the investment." 

She said, "I'll lend you some, too." 

"My dear," he began. 

"I know . . . but you can let me lend you some money, can't you?" 

He got up, pulled on his trousers, and kissed her. "Yes," he said, 
"out of affection, and respect. Now you'd better go." 



54 



Ctapter 5 



Margaret Wood looked vexedly at the dense swirling crowd that filled 
Lapri from end to end. She would have to get through that somehow, 
unless she turned off into the fields, and that would mean scrambling 
through thorn fences and over irrigation ditches and beds of stinging 
nettles. It was too hot. The whirring sound of a small car engine made 
her turn her head. The car stopped beside her and she saw that it was 
the Deputy Commissioner of Bijoli, Mr. Ranjit Singh. 

He climbed out and said, "I was just coming to pay you a call. 
I hope it's convenient." 

"Oh, yes," she said. "Please." What's the time? she thought. About 
half past four. Tea with small cakes would be enough. If she could 
find anyone to prepare it. Today was the biggest day of the Hindu 
festival of Holi, one of the most important of the year. Whether 
officially Christian or not, everyone disappeared from the mission. 
She had to keep one of the nurses on duty by a combination of main 
force, threats, and bribery. 

"May I give you a lift?" the Sikh said, and she cried, "Oh, yes, 
please." She waved her hand at the throng ahead. Ranjit Singh smiled. 

55 



"You should be in your oldest clothes today. I am." She saw that his 
khaki shirt was splashed with violet and red spots and streaks. She 
suppressed a grimace of disgust. During Holi the Indians threw 
colored dye over each other, over everything, and sometimes water 
that had been dyed pink and red and violet. Educated Hindus ener- 
getically denied it, but she had heard that the red liquid represented 
women's menstrual blood, and it was thrown about at this time be- 
cause Holi was the feast of spring, of fertility, and lust. An extra 
source of disgust was that Holi always coincided closely with Easter. 
The actual truth of the legend didn't matter. Hindu India, in the 
essence, as she saw it in this buried, forgotten corner, was quite ca- 
pable of such a bestiality. You only had to look at the Pattan temples 
to realize that the Hindus really worshiped sex and everything to do 
with it. Last year, during Holi, she and Henry had seen men dancing 
in the road at night with huge wooden phalli strapped to their waists. 

They crawled forward in low gear, the little Austin worming its 
way through the singing, shouting, dancing crowd. Small bands blared 
on either side, bombs of dye burst on the closed windows, and the 
heat inside was stifling. A young man, laughing and happy, leaned 
over the bonnet and sent a long squirt of red water onto the wind- 
shield. Ranjit Singh switched on his windshield wipers and the young 
man laughed even harder. 

She gasped, "Look!" 

There was Rodney Savage, among the crowd. A mob of men and 
girls surrounded him, and they were all pelting each other with 
powder. As she watched, a paper bag burst on his forehead, and pink 
liquid flowed down his face. His shirt and trousers were a motley 
mess of red and violet, hardly any of the original color visible. Near 
him she saw his chauffeur, the Gurkha Ratanbir, in the same state. 

"He's gone absolutely native," she said; and flushed, "I'm sorry, 
I didn't mean . . ." 

The Sikh smiled. "I know what you mean, Mrs. Wood." 

Savage saw them in the car at that moment. He straightened, then 
bowed deeply. 

"He's drunk," she muttered, "he must be." 

Ranjit Singh said, "He may well be— but he doesn't have to be. As 
you said, he has identified himself with these people and does not 
need to be drunk to share their pleasures . . . and their pains, I 
suppose." 

56 



They reached the end of the town at last, and pulled up in front 
of the mission bungalow. 

She hurried up the steps. "If you'll excuse me a moment . . ." 

"Please . . . just a glass of water. I cannot stay long." 

They sat down on the rickety chairs on the veranda. The blare of 
bands came strong on the hot afternoon wind. Ranjit Singh sipped his 
water. His face was slightly pockmarked and he had shrewd, promi- 
nent eyes and thick, sensual lips. She had found him a pleasant visitor 
on the two or three occasions when he passed through Lapri on his 
way to visit the Pattan valley behind. But his visits had been purely 
social, for Lapri itself was not in India but in the princely State of 
Chambal. She wondered what was the purpose of this present call and 
why he was spending so long sipping his glass of water. 

The Sikh put down the glass. "Do you see much of your neighbor 
in Pattan?" 

"Colonel Savage. No!" 

She realized she had spoken with considerable vehemence. The 
Sikh fixed his prominent eyes on her. "That seems a pity. Another 
Englishman, so close. He must be lonely . . . until his first batch of 
clients arrive." 

"He has hardly spoken ten words to me since he came last October 
—five months ago," she said. "It does not upset me, I assure you. I am 
not lonely, and even if I were, he would be the last person I would 
want to see." She paused to gather breath and then the rest of her 
anger poured out, unchecked. It felt good, rushing out like a released 
flood. "We used to get many villagers from Pattan and the valley 
coming down to the Mission. Now, since he came and started to 
repair the Rest House— none. He encourages them not to come. He 
wants to be a little tin god there. He encourages them in their old 
horrible superstitions. He even made a sacrifice." 

"Not human, Fm sure," the D.C. said. "I think I would have 
heard of that, even as far away as Bijoli." 

"No— goats and a buffalo, I heard. In October." 

The D.C. nodded. "At the time of Dussehra. The Gurkha regi- 
ments always do it, though it's not a usual custom among other 
Hindus." 

She said, "I saw him with some men from Pattan one evening, a 
week ago. They were carrying a sambhur doe." 

The D.C. said, "Of course it has been a very poor winter crop and 

57 



the villagers are hungry. But it seems an odd way to ensure good 
hunting for his clients. . . . Has he annoyed or molested you m 
any way?" 

"No," she said at once, "not personally. Not since . . . well, he did 
once, a long time ago, not here, but I have forgotten it and I don't 
think he even remembers. Fm not being spiteful, Mr. Ranjit Singh. 
Only, he's giving all Europeans a bad name, and he's a bad influence. 
Fm sure he's setting up a little kingdom of his own. He's the only 
employer in Pattan, and can spread the money, which isn't even his, 
just as he likes. He has them eating out of his hand. . . . My nurses 
desert as fast as I can begin to train them. He ... he has women. 
I don't know how any decent women can even visit him, but they do. 
Mrs. Dadhwal went, with the general, in December. The Rani of 
Kishanpur is there now, alone." 

"They are all old friends," the D.C. said, "except the Rani. . . . 
He has a catholic taste." 

"Catholic!" she cried. "He's just— just a lecher." 

The D.C. paused a long time before speaking again. Then he said, 
"You may be right. I do not know him well. I have only met him a 
couple of times, and the first time he did me and the Government 
of India a good turn. But I think you misjudge him if you believe 
that is all he is. Some men who pursue many women are seeking for 
an ideal— and some already have an ideal, but it's unattainable. It's 
important not to underestimate him. . . . How are your relations 
with Mr. Faiz Mohammed and the Chambal authorities in general?" 

Mr. Faiz Mohammed was the administrator of the Lapri district, 
and so Mr. Ranjit Singh's opposite number, over the border here in 
Chambal. He represented the government of the State. She frowned 
in puzzlement as she began to answer. What had Mr. Faiz Mo- 
hammed got to do with Rodney Savage? She said, "Not as good as 
they used to be. There's been no actual trouble . . . just pinpricks. 
It's hard to get to see Mr. Faiz Mohammed when I want to. Just after 
my husband died the Chambal government gave an order requiring 
foreign missions to get authority before bringing any more mission- 
aries into the State. We applied at once, that is, our headquarters in 
Manchester did. They're still doubtful whether they can find anyone 
to come out, but even if they do— Chambal hasn't given the permis- 
sion. We had been seriously thinking of moving the mission to 
Pattan. Henry had talked to me about taking over the old Rest House. 

58 



Then we'd have been in India, instead of at the mercies of the 
Chambal people. They seem to be getting more fanatically Muslim 
every day . . . but we don't have a proper missioner, and Colonel 
Savage has the Rest House." 

The D.C. said, "And I'm afraid you would not find the attitude of 
our government much more helpful. Who was it who said the mis- 
sions too often acted like an ecclesiastical branch of the I.C.S.? Ah, 
I remember, it was Rodney Savage." 

"It's not true!" she cried angrily. 

"I know it does not apply to you," he said hastily. "Mrs. Wood, 
I must explain something to you in plain words, which you may have 
thought out for yourself. ... As you know, when the British left 
this country they left it divided up into two sovereign nations— India 
and Pakistan— and several hundred princely states, varying in size 
from a few acres to thousands of square miles. Nearly all those states 
have since acceded to one nation or the other." 

"You invaded Hyderabad only six months ago," she said. 

The D.C. smiled. "Our politicians use a less blunt language, but, 
yes, we did invade Hyderabad, the largest and richest state of all — 
because we are determined that these anachronistic despotisms have 
no place in the modern world, and we are sure that they cannot sur- 
vive alone, whatever their rulers might say. We are determined." He 
repeated the phrase with emphasis, staring at her. Then he continued: 
"Half a dozen states have still not joined either us or Pakistan. They 
are all situated in this part of India, they are all contiguous or prac- 
tically so, and the largest of them, the ringleader of the resistance, if 
one might call it that, is Chambal— this state. The others, such as 
Kishanpur and Konpara, are small and by themselves do not matter. 
But Chambal borders India, here, and also borders Pakistan, three 
hundred miles west of here, in the Sind Desert. Its ruler, the Nawab, 
is a Muslim. Ninety per cent of its people are Hindu." 

"You are going to take over Chambal?" she said. 

He smiled carefully. "It's not quite as easy as that. We wish to 
avoid violence. We suspect there is an understanding between 
Chambal and the smaller uncommitted states, and possibly between 
all of them and Pakistan, that they will act together to resist any 
overt action on our part. We must move carefully. But if there should 
be military action— this is the main gateway into Chambal from 
India." 

59 



"Of course," she muttered. "That's why General Dadhwal was 
visiting in December. Mr. Faiz Mohammed had three policemen 
waiting on the frontier to escort him whenever he stepped back into 
Chambal." 

The D.C. said, "General Dadhwal was merely, ah, enjoying a 
shooting holiday with Colonel Savage. . . . What I wish to tell you 
is this. After Chambal is incorporated into India, as we are deter- 
mined that it shall be sooner or later, the position of the Lapri Mis- 
sion will be greatly helped if it has not identified with the Nawab's 
futile struggle against us. Rather, the reverse. We would appreciate 
any information that can be given to us about unusual activity, visits 
of Chambal generals, high officials, and so on. We have other means 
of getting information, of course, but few of them are as well placed 
and as . . . innocent, as you. There is a lot of tension between us 
now, and anything— a border incident, another speech by Mr. Roy, 
further defiance by the Nawab— is liable to make matters worse at 
any moment. What are Colonel Savage's relations with Mr. Faiz 
Mohammed? Have you noticed or heard of him meeting Chambal 
officials here or elsewhere?" 

The abrupt questions again surprised her. She shook her head. 
"I don't know ... I haven't heard . . . Pattan is in India ... he 
has no reason for dealing with Mr. Faiz Mohammed." 

"Precisely," the D.C. said. "That's why it would be very interesting 
. . . and, to me, sad, if he were. I'm sorry for him." 

"Sorry?" she exclaimed, and checked herself. That was not a 
charitable outlook. Henry would have reproved her for that. She said, 
"Is he suspected?" 

The D.C. stood up. "He has enemies," he said enigmatically. "Now 
I must run the gauntlet of the crowd again. No use washing my car, 
or myself, until next week. Thank you so much— and don't hesitate 
to call on me for any assistance I can give you. My tehsildar at Sabora 
will always forward a message. He is a very reliable man." 

She watched the little Austin drive down the road, and slow to a 
crawl as it reached the outskirts of the crowd. Soon it was engulfed. 

Colonel Savage a sort of a spy, a secret agent of Chambal. ... It 
would fit what she had heard about him in the old days; but somehow 
it didn't fit the new Savage, dancing and singing in that crowd there, 
the Savage of Pattan. This man seemed to be withdrawing from 
power, rather than meddling with it. She had not sensed any intrigue. 

60 



What annoyed her was a feeling that he exerted a secret pull, like 
that of a hidden magnet, back toward the jungle, and a barbaric, 
sensual past. It was a strong pull, and it seemed to affect everyone 
who could be reached by the power of his personality, or his money. 
It affected her. 

His first batch of clients was coming any day now, she had heard. 
She wondered how it would go. It would certainly be nothing like 
the African safaris one read about. . . . 

She glanced at the little chapel down the road. Henry's grave was 
indistinguishable from those of his converts now. Sometimes there 
were only two people at Sunday morning prayer service. Henry had 
ordained her a lay preacher during his long illness, and she did her 
best to feel the inspiration . . . but how could she guide souls when 
her own floated lost and desolate, here in the jungle, unable to go, 
without purpose to stay? 

Now they wanted her to be a spy. It sounded exciting. She would 
write secret messages, pay secret calls on the tehsildar at Sabora, creep 
stealthily through the jungle to Pattan and, unseen, watch Rodney 
Savage's intrigues. Angrily she kicked a small stone off the veranda. 
What would Henry have said? No one would have suggested it to 
him. He was incapable of doing any work but God's. The affairs of 
man had meant nothing to him. 

The sun was setting behind the Chambal hills to the west. Soon it 
would be dark. Time to check the oil in the lamps, and the wicks, and 
see whether the buffalo milk had curdled in the pantry, and read 
another chapter of the Bible, and pray, and wonder, and wait. 



61 



Chapter 6 



March, 1949. The intrepid white hunter strode tirelessly across the 
rolling hills, the topi shading his keen handsome face from the 
tropical sun. His clothes were well worn but, oh, so obviously the work 
of a West End tailor, and his fingernails were clean, for Colonel 
Savage, O.B.E., M.C., late of His Majesty's Indian Army, was first, 
last, and all the time a gentleman, and could no more be found with 
dirty fingernails than the Holy Roller down in Lapri could be dragged 
out from under a bus and, horror of horrors, have it revealed that the 
corpse was wearing off-white drawers. At the Colonels heels trotted 
his faithful native servants, doglike devotion written all over their 
inscrutable Oriental faces . . . 

I was wearing a pair of khaki shorts and Bandelkhand slippers, as 
a matter of fact. Chadi, Mitoo, and Ganesha wore slippers and loin- 
cloths, mere ball bags. I'd have worn the same if I'd thought we 
might run into the Holy Roller, but that didn't seem likely, and I 
prefer shorts. That woman hated me and I resented it. Hated, feared, 
and despised me. The unreason of it haunted me, so that I'd see her 
face in my imagination, wearing a number of expressions I'd never 

62 



seen it wearing in real life— compassion, amusement, speculation. 
Very odd, in spite of her auburn hair and fine race-horse thighs. 

It kept drizzling a warm rain, and I tried to think of Sumitra, to 
keep my mind off being tired. The sweat and rain ran salt into my 
mouth. My legs and chest and face were thorn-scratched and bleeding 
in a dozen places. My stomach felt empty as a drum, the skin drawn 
back from the front against my backbone by a sheer sucking empti- 
ness, and my mouth like a pot of stale glue. Not a sight of game all 
day, and now we were almost home again— only about four miles 
to go. 

Yesterday we'd done thirty-five miles, from Pattan to the Gond 
village of Bhilghat. Fd sat up most of the night with Gulu the chief, 
arranging to get their help in producing game for my clients. The 
Gonds live so close to nature that they can do almost anything with 
wild animals. Now we were on our way back, another thirty-five miles. 
And Sumitra probably arrived yesterday, expecting to find me 
there. . . . 

All this because of the weather. Six days of rain now, to ruin scent, 
drive the animals to shelter, reduce visibility— just before my first 
clients came. Weather bad, crops bad. I knew the crops had been 
bad, but I didn't know quite how bad until a month or so ago when 
I found a child, a little girl of eight, lying in the path between the 
Rest House and Pattan village, almost in front of the old temples. 
She was starving to death, and had fainted. I carried her into the Rest 
House and fed her up, and swore I'd eat the same as the poorest 
people in Pattan until I really knew what it was like to starve. I found 
the poorest family in the village, and for a week ate exactly what they 
ate, no more, no less. Then I took my rifle and started poaching game 
for the village to eat. It might have been more helpful to give them 
some money, or go and beg grain from the Holy Roller— she had a 
few rupees for such charity, I believe— or go and tell Ran jit the D.C. 
. . . but life isn't all sense, thank God. These were my people and 
we were going to come through it together, by our own efforts. 

Chadi, Mitoo, and Ganesha were the faithful natives, trotting at 
my heels. Actually they were padding along in slow time, almost as 
dead beat as I— not quite, because they were all three typical hillmen 
from the Vindhyas, wiry, no surplus flesh, the skin tight on the bones 
but wrinkled at the joints, legs like match sticks with lengths of dark 
muscle cord wrapped over the bone and knotted here and there. 

63 



Chadi saw the stag first and touched my bare elbow. We all 
stopped. The stag was a monster, one of the best heads I've ever 
seen. He was feeding near the edge of the escarpment. Behind him 
the land dropped sharply away to the Shakkar valley, the Rest House, 
and the cart track from Pattan to Lapri. By then we were less than 
a mile from Pattan. The rain slanted gently from the northwest, not 
quite from the stag toward us, but diagonally. We sank down, the 
four of us, and stared at the stag. The three experts sniffed the air, 
looked at the trees, felt the earth. I couldn't help thinking, what 
a trophy! I could leave one of the men to mark his movements, and 
give H. Huntington Blauvelt or Lord Hillburn a near-record head— 
their first day. And we would still eat the carcass. My mouth began to 
water and my jaw to ache. No, this was food. Pattan needed food, and 
I couldn't afford to risk losing it. 

I wanted to shoot at once, but the beast was a good six hundred 
yards off, moving in and out among scrub teak and scattered 
bijasals. A flame-of-the-forest tree spread a kind of dull, wet-sheened 
scarlet light over him for a moment and my heart cried, Don't fire, 
he lives here too, he walks these hills, and feels the earth underfoot, 
and the sun on his back, and smells the jungle at night, and caresses 
the does clustering round him. Then my jaw hurt more and saliva 
squirted out suddenly into the corner of my mouth and it hurt so 
much that I bit my tongue to avoid groaning aloud. 

Chadi and Ganesha, the oldest and the youngest of the three, 
slipped away to the left. I understood well enough. They intended to 
drop over the edge of the escarpment and work along the slope below 
the stag until they were upwind of him. They'd have to get pretty 
close, in this weather. Then he'd raise his head and start moving, 
more or less toward me. We must not let him turn across the wind 
and down toward the Rest House, which he might easily do with the 
scent so indecisive and occasionally distorted by rain flurries. 

When the others had been gone ten minutes Mitoo slipped away 
from my side. He would follow in their path, but closer to the top 
of the escarpment. When the stag began to move, he would come 
up to the crest line and show himself. No, that would be too crude. 
He would move subtly, make a noise that might mean anything, not 
enough to frighten the stag, enough to puzzle him. I had to remem- 
ber that their hunting methods were based on the bow and arrow, 
and even the spear. They had no firearms, except one old blunderbuss 

6 4 



in the village, which the government allowed them for the watch- 
man. Nor could they afford cartridges. 

I knelt beside a pterocarpus, my body hidden behind the bole, and 
watched the stag. My rifle was cocked now and I kept nervously ex- 
amining the sights. Suppose I had hit a rock with the foresight some- 
time, and not noticed it? Suppose I'd bent the backsight against a 
tree trunk? 

The stag flung up his head and stared west, toward the edge of the 
escarpment. He took a couple of steps in that direction— away from 
me. My heart sank and my throat contracted in pain. None of the 
men were carrying any weapon but the long-handled hatchet. 

The stag began to move along the edge of the escarpment. Now 
was the bad time. He was moving away from Chadi and Ganesha, 
but would not reach Mitoo for another couple of minutes. He only 
had to take a couple of steps to the right and he'd disappear over 
the edge. I had the sights on him, but there was no strength in my 
arms, and the rifle barrel wavered and swung so that sometimes I 
could see all of him above the foresight, sometimes the barrel blocked 
him out altogether, and bushes and trees kept obscuring him. 

He went on, fast but not trotting, his head high, suspicion in the 
curve of his back and the set of his tail and the carriage of his great 
head. Another minute and I began to feel easier. He would be al- 
most directly above Mitoo now. 

He jerked his head sideways, stopped dead for a fraction of a sec- 
ond, then turned and trotted straight toward me. After a hundred 
yards his trot eased to a walk and he stopped, turned again. Another 
bad time— if he continued now in his original direction he'd disappear 
into a patch of thicker jungle, still nearly 500 yards away. 

Mitoo appeared, rather to the left of where he must have been 
when he made his little sound. He stood now between the stag and 
the stand of dense jungle. The stag swung heavily round and broke 
into a full gallop. He passed me at thirty yards, and I hit him exactly 
behind the point of the left elbow. He dived head first onto his nose 
and never moved again, his head plowing through the fallen leaves 
like a bulldozer, the horns remaining spread and upright. 

They came, running, dancing, waving their axes in the air. I threw 
down my rifle and grabbed two by the waist, and we danced round 
the corpse, yelling. I broke it up by grabbing Ganesha's arm and 
shaking him. "Run down to the village," I shouted, "and bring men 

65 



to carry the stag. We cannot manage it by ourselves." 

Ganesha ran off, a huge grin splitting his dark narrow face. The 
two older men stopped their prancing, and we went slowly down 
over the edge of the escarpment toward Pattan. 

We came in on a game trail that passes half a mile behind the 
temples, and about there met Ganesha and a dozen men carrying 
long bamboo poles, all trotting up the path and chanting a vigorous 
song: Question from Ganesha in front, "Who saw the stag?" 
Response from the crowd behind, "Who saw the stag, wah!" Then, 
in chorus: 

"Chadi saw the stag, Chadi saw the stag, wahl 
The Gora Raja waited, the Gora Raja waited, wahl 
The Gora Raja fired, wahl 
We shall eat, we shall eat, wahl 77 

Gora Raja means Pale Face King. That was me, and it was the best 
title, the sweetest in my ears, of any that I'd ever held. No one 
awarded it to me. I earned it. 

We entered the village at about half past five in heavy rain. All 
the small boys ran out, shrieking and dancing and singing round me. 
I gave one of them my rifle to carry, and he put it on his shoulder 
and marched beside me like a bodyguard. I soon had a naked little 
girl in each hand and another riding on my shoulders, her thin legs 
clasped round my neck and her fists beating a tattoo on the top of 
my head. Their mothers and elder sisters were out, too, some smiling 
from the doorways, a couple of girls running out and throwing 
hurriedly made garlands round my neck. Mitoo's wife hugged me, and 
I held her naked waist with one arm and cried to Mitoo, "Hey, this 
one wants to fornicate in the street in broad daylight. No wonder you 
look so tired." 

Mitoo yelled, "She is a bottomless pit! She would like to be one 
of the stone women at the temples!" 

The Pattan temples were covered with statutes of communal love- 
making. For some time the near-famine had been scraping layers of 
repression and layers of modern organization off the villagers. The 
temples and the kind of communal life they portrayed was now, 
again, very near the actuality. There wasn't a mixture of poverty and 
wealth. Everyone was the same— poor. One man's poverty or starva- 
tion affected everyone, because everyone shared in it. One man's good 

66 



fortune affected everyone the same way, just as they were all dancing 
and laughing now. It was not at all hard to see in the present excite- 
ment, caused by the prospect of eating meat, that desire also would 
affect everyone. It only required a small step— forward or backward— 
for it, too, to be equally shared. 

When we reached the headman's house the whole population of 
the village, about four hundred, was with us, except the men who 
had gone back up the hill. Lok Chand, the headman, came out of his 
little house, his wife behind him. They were both short, and usually 
cheerful, though they were no richer than anyone else. They both 
used to be fat, but had lost many pounds during the lean spell. 

I called out to Lok Chand that we had killed a stag and he said, 
"Do you think there is anyone here who doesn't know that? How 
shall I divide it?" 

"The usual way," I said. "I do not want anything for myself." 

His wife pushed through the crowd, holding a brass jar of warm 
milk, and gave it to me. I drank some and passed it to Chadi, who 
drank and passed it to Mitoo. Everyone in Pattan was the same caste, 
a Sivaite sect of Sudras, except the village Brahmin. I had long ago 
been elected an honorary Sudra too, inasmuch as that mattered here. 
As the Brahmin and I had discussed several times, the Hinduism of 
Pattan seemed in many ways to be pre-Brahmin, Tantric and Rudric. 
Max had noticed it and commented on it during his visit in December. 

I noticed that a couple of the older villagers who had been squatting 
outside the headman's house— combined hovel and byre would be a 
better word— were now arguing fiercely with each other, waving 
their arms, shaking their palms in the air, and gabbling away at high 
speed, though they kept their voices low. I called over the heads of 
the crowd, "What is this, brothers? Should we quarrel when there is 
food?" 

The two stopped, rather shamefaced, and the headman said, "It 
is the old land dispute, sahib." 

"Are you two still quarreling over five square yards of rock and 
one thornbush?" I cried. Everyone laughed. Lok Chand said, "There 
is no bringing them to reason. I shall have to ask the Deputy 
Commissioner Sahib to settle it when he comes next." 

"The Deputy Commissioner?" I said. "What do we in Pattan need 
of him? Can we not settle our affairs by ourselves? Come here, 
brothers." The two men came forward. "It's that piece of land at the 



southeast corner of your maize field, eh?" I said to one. 

"At the southwest corner of my maize field," the other said. 

"My father . . ." 

"My uncle . . ." 

"Who were one and the same person," I bellowed. "Shut up! . . . 
Listen, will you accept my judgment? It will be either mine or the 
Sikh's. Make up your minds." 

The two old fools looked at each other. They spoke simultaneously. 
"We will abide by your judgment, Gora Raja." 

"All right. Give me a coin, Lok Chand." Lok Chand ran back into 
his house. Coinage wasn't used much in that village, where payments 
were made by exchange or barter or in kind. He came out with a 
two-anna piece. "You," I pointed to one of the old men, "you will 
call either heads or tails when I flip this coin in the air. If you call 
it correct, the land will belong to you, but you will lease it to the 
other, without rental payment, for a period of ten years from this 
moment. If you call wrong, the opposite . . . Call." 

He called wrong. "It is settled," I said. 

"It is settled," they said gravely. Their old wives appeared from 
nowhere, beaming at each other— they'd been glaring and glowering 
like little old witches for the past three months and more. I covered 
my eyes with the palm of my hand and cried, "Those eyes! Take me 
away before I faint from desire." More shrieking and cackling. I 
could have kissed them all. 

I beckoned Lok Chand. "Come with me a little way . . ." We 
walked on between the houses, the crowd still with us. It was some- 
thing like those old prewar newsreels of Hitler entering Vienna or 
the Prince of Wales in the Welsh coal valleys: take your pick. I'd 
had the little naked girl wrapped round my neck all the time, and 
wondered whether any previous Solon gave his judgments wearing 
such a becoming scarf. I lowered her, smacked her behind, and told 
her to go home. She ran off, laughing. 

"Listen, friend," I said to Lok Chand. "That stag is a big one, but 
it will not go far among four hundred. Tomorrow, leave behind in the 
village all the men I shall need as beaters and shikaris. Take a party 
of the rest to Bhilghat, and fish in the lakes." 

Lok Chand cried, "The Gonds will kill us, sahib!" 

I said, "No, they won't. I have their chief's promise. Once a week, 
until your new crops ripen, you may take two hundred pounds of 

68 



fish from their lakes and rivers." 

Lok Chand said, "Sahib, in this weather not even our best fisher- 
men will catch anything." 

I whispered in his ear. "Dynamite. I have it and the detonators 
at the Rest House. Grimoo and Maldi and Taharu have all worked 
at the Sabora quarries, and know something of the business." 

Lok Chand dropped back, his palms joined. He had a deep sense 
of responsibility for his village, and usually no means to discharge 
that responsibility, being as helpless as the rest of them in the face of 
natural calamity and hardship. He was a good man. 

By then we were almost at the temples. I went up the steps onto 
the great platform, followed by about half the original crowd— the rest 
had drifted back into the village. I took off my battered little garlands, 
kicked off my slippers, and went into the temple with the great red 
phallus, and hung the garlands carefully round the head of it. Most 
of the others came forward after me, with flowers they'd picked along 
the track, and green twigs, whatever they had in their hands, and laid 
their offerings at the base of the phallus. 

Then we all looked at each other awhile, smiling in contentment, 
and I waved my hand and went on toward the Rest House. They, 
my people, turned back toward Pattan. 

Sumitra was standing on the veranda when I came round the last 
bend in the track. She was wearing slim-cut fawn slacks of drill and 
a pale-blue silk blouse, with a wide belt and a big silver buckle. I went 
slowly up the steps to her, dirty and wet and smelling of woodsmoke 
and sweat. She held out a tall cold glass of lemonade. "Congratula- 
tions. I hear it was a beauty." 

I nodded, busy drinking the lemonade. 

"Too good for your clients," she said. She laughed. "Really, 
Rodney, you are impossible. Don't you have any sense of self- 
preservation?" 

I didn't answer that, but I said, "I'm sorry I wasn't here. Things 
got urgent and I had to go." 

She said, "Don't worry. It was nice being alone for a change." 

It was getting dark under the rain clouds and Ratanbir had 
appeared to take the rifle from my hand. "Ghusl tayyar chha," he 
said, saluting. I needed a bath more than anything just then, so I 
went in, with a word of apology to Sumitra. 

Half an hour later, clean-scrubbed and dressed in a thin black 

69 



dinner jacket and white trousers, I rejoined her. The butler brought 
us whisky and soda, and hot meat tidbits to nibble on. 

I said, "I thought Dip was coming with you again/' 

She said, "He was. Then something turned up— a sudden visit 
by the Grand Wazir of Chambal. Dip had to stay." 

"Chambal?" I said. "Oh, more bribes and threats, I suppose." 

She said, "I suppose so. ... I had hell getting across the border 
yesterday, you know. The Chambal police practically turned my 
car, and all my luggage, inside out. It's that speech the Nawab 
made." 

"I know," I said. Three days ago the Nawab of Chambal had 
made a fierce radio speech, all about how the great, ancient, in- 
dependent, and sovereign kingdom of Chambal would take no 
nonsense from anyone. And that was in response to a speech by 
L. P. Roy in Delhi, who'd said that India's patience was not in- 
exhaustible, that India could not stand by forever with folded hands 
while the Chambal despots threw democracy-loving citizens into jail 
and forced Hindus to eat beef at bayonet point. 

"A pox on both your houses," I said rather irritably. It didn't 
require much nous to realize that here at Pattan, peaceably going 
about my business, I was nevertheless in the firing line. Max had 
obviously done some snooping while on his shooting trip, and doubt- 
less even now some Chambal general, bent over a map in Chambal- 
pur, was announcing "We'll stop them here"— with a large forefinger 
covering the words "Lapri" and "Pattan." 

"Aren't you going to take sides?" Sumitra asked. "Or perhaps you 
already have?" Outwardly she looked very un-Indian, like a sun- 
tanned French brunette just in from riding round the grounds of her 
chateau. But her eyes, and the particular pose she adopted, relaxed 
in the long chair, and the set of her head, were pure Indian. Then 
there was something peculiarly Sumitra, special to her, which I 
recognized at once even though I'd seen her only three times: her 
eyes were alert, examining, and set, in the way a trigger is set, ready 
to go took and set off a propellant charge of enormous power. 

I wanted that charge to go off, aimed at me, though I knew it 
would be dangerous. I was lonely, and, busy as I kept myself, I could 
not prevent Janaki and Victoria Jones coming to me in my dreams- 
only to look at me with the helpless, puzzled look of people who see 
each other out of trains in a station, and then the trains begin to 

70 



move in opposite directions, leaving me more lonely, more in need. 

I said, "No, I am not going to take sides." I added in Hindi, "I am 
a poor man of Pattan. Let the mighty ones fight over my head while 
I cultivate the soil/' 

I reached out my hand, took hers, and said, "I hope you've come 
to sleep with me." 

She let her hand lie in mine, and her eyes kept on mine, but the 
trigger notion was not in them so strongly now, or perhaps not at 
all, just a mirrorlike self-inquiry. 

"I don't know," she said, "I don't think so." 

I had a right to ask her, bluntly and without a gavotte of prepara- 
tion. That first night she came to the Rest House and stayed the 
night— she and the two girls from Pattan. If I hadn't already seen 
Khajuraho and the Pattan temples I would have been hard put to it 
to know how to comport myself in such a situation. As it was, every- 
thing fitted into place, not only physically but spiritually. By morn- 
ing my body was drained clean of any animal emotion whatsoever- 
love, hate, jealousy, anxiety, what have you. This was the original 
design: after the orgy those medieval Hindus went thus, empty, to 
the temple, to understand God. And so I had gone, empty, to 
Delhi. 

She said, "I have never slept with a cultivator of the soil." 

"Quelle snobl" I said; but it had always been clear that a man's 
mental state, his condition of tension and effort, what one might 
call being strung like a bow against his fate, meant more to her than 
the physical side. Her way and walk of life had not brought her into 
contact with a cultivator in rebellion against the soil, that was all. 
I was no longer in rebellion, and was digging my way into Pattan 
and rural Indian life so fast that in a year or two there'd be nothing 
left of me visible aboveground. 

She turned away her brilliant eyes and spoke to the night. "I can 
see you want to fall in love. I don't wish to act as a substitute for 
Janaki, much as I admire her. And it wouldn't do you much good 
either, would it?" 

Dip Rao, her husband, was a friend of mine and always had been, 
though we had not seen much of each other since boyhood. In the 
Western world, and in the old days, twinges of guilt would have 
assailed me about sleeping with a close friend's wife, but Sumitra's 
original kindness had altered that, at least in respect of her, and life 



in Pattan had confirmed the change. Here, in the pattern that 
seemed to be modeling itself on the ancient temple statuary, you 
slept only with friends' wives. After all, it is a situation which calls 
for a lot of understanding, sympathy, and affection. 

"You have those two girls, I suppose, for your needs?" she said. 

"Kunthi and Devi? I have been teaching them what I know of 
hygiene, sanitation, and elementary first aid. I think the village needs 
something like that. But I have not had them professionally since 
Sabora, in spite of the Holy Roller's tales to the contrary." 

She sank her hand on mine and squeezed it, "Oh, Rodney, you are 
a fool! Why do you try to hurt yourself?" 

She was as sharp as a razor. However energetically I sank into the 
life of Pattan I could not conceal from myself that something vital 
was missing; and that something was a woman of intelligence and 
power to share my secret life and thoughts. It was a desperate lack, 
and because of it I could not bring myself to waste my substance, 
the substance of my loneliness and need, on the frivolity of sheer 
fornication. 

"This is impossible," she said suddenly. She pulled her hand away 
and got up. "I never thought it would be as hard as this. I'm going." 

She ran into the bungalow. It was nearly seven. She had 120 miles 
to go to Kishanpur. Well, she could always stop the night with Max 
and Janaki in Bhowani. She came out carrying a small suitcase. 

I got up. "Good-by," she said. "Will you promise me something, 
Rodney? Send for those two girls. If you're going to give up the rest 
of the world, do it thoroughly. Otherwise— you'll get torn in 
pieces. . . . Oh, I passed our elephants on the road. They'll be 
here tomorrow morning." 

She held out her hand and I raised it to my lips. A moment later 
she had slid behind the wheel of the Rolls snooting brake, and the 
lights came on, shining down the long avenue of the forest road to 
Lapri, and shining on the place by the stream, near the Irish bridge, 
where I had doused the Holy Roller with water, and then the red 
taillight shone dim and dimmer and she was gone. 

After a long silent time, sitting slumped in the chair, I stirred 
myself and called for a double whisky. The rain clouds seemed to 
be lifting and perhaps my clients would not get soaked every day, 
though conditions would still be most unpromising. Tomorrow 
they'd arrive, Lord and Lady Poop, Mr. J. Theophilus Hacken- 



schmidt, Mr. and Mrs. whatever their bloody names were. My 
purpose in being here, my original object in becoming involved so 
closely with Pattan, was to prepare for them, and yet ever since the 
first preparations began, the clients had been taking shape in my 
mind as intruders. 

The stretch Of grass beside the Rest House, that had once been 
empty, was covered with big tents. Tomorrow I must move out into 
one of them myself. It wouldn't do for the clients to live in tents 
while the White Hunter, the paid servant, slept under a roof. We 
would use the Rest House for dining, bar, and common-room pur- 
poses. The servants' quarters and other smaller tents alongside them 
were full of servants. We had a Goanese butler and a Goanese cook, 
Carlos and Francis, respectively, and half a dozen bearers, plus 
sweepers and bhistis from Pattan. None of the men from outside 
was happy, and I'd had to pay vast sums to get them. The kind of 
servant who is at home in the jungle is apt to look primitive to the 
eyes of people straight from England or America— like my mother's 
old sweeper in Manali, who'd stride through the drawing room while 
she was having a tea party, a full chamber pot in his hand, crying 
genially, "Going to empty piss-paat, memsahib!" Conversely, such 
men as these, who knew how to handle all the complicated require- 
ments of tourists, hated and feared the jungle. So they, even though 
Indians, were intruders too. 

Tomorrow the rape would become final, the actual violation of 
Pattan. The peace would be broken, the enclosed entity shattered. 
I felt as though I were holding down a little girl, perhaps the naked 
nine-year-old who had ridden wrapped round my neck through the 
village just now, and guiding some ignorant foreign sod into her 
secret place. I felt terribly lonely, and for a moment fought against a 
frantic desire to send for Kunthi and Devi. Then my deeper 
longing won, and I called instead for dinner to be served at once. 

The next morning dawned well, and the elephants arrived. These 
were half a dozen State elephants belonging to Dip Rao. He had to 
use them for ceremonial processions during Holi and again in 
October, for Dussehra. The rest of the time he was lending them 
to me, free of charge— in fact he was paying for their upkeep. I had 
promised to pay him back when we got going properly. 

Later the first clients arrived. The hired cars made the journey from 

73 



Bhowani Junction, where I went to meet the mail train, with only 
one puncture and no mechanical breakdowns. The clients rolled 
happily along with many ohs and ahs at the sight of the Romantic 
Orient. They thought the Rest House picturesque, the tents thrilling, 
and the servants amusing. At dinner the roast lamb was dreadful, 
but liberal lubrication with champagne did its work and by the end 
of the evening we all knew each other pretty well. 

There were five of them— Lord and Lady Hillbum, Mr. and Mrs. 
Wilson, and H. Huntington Blauvelt. Hillbum was a shortish, fat 
fellow with a paunch and a face like a butcher's. The peeress — 
Cynthia, she told us to call her— was several inches taller, a natural 
blonde, long face, long legs, small breasts, hard blue eyes. She was 
obviously the boss, and the better athlete of that pair. 

The Americans were the other way round. George Wilson was a 
rugged six-foot specimen, about forty-five, black hair cut short, an 
oil man from Wyoming. He assured me three times that his company 
had no connection whatever with teapots, and never did have. 
Baffled but polite, I agreed, and then he relaxed. His hunting equip- 
ment was workmanlike, and I enjoyed his manner. His weakness was 
an excessive fondness for his wife, Mother, as he called her. Dot 
Wilson was just what you'd have expected, a little plump friendly 
woman, totally unused to the wilds. 

H. Huntington Blauvelt was the really important member of the 
group as far as we were concerned. Who hasn't read The Doughboy 
and the Duchess? Well, I hadn't until a month before, but ap- 
parently everyone else in the world had, certainly everyone in the 
U.S.A., and even I had heard of it. He wrote it in 1919, and followed 
it with three or four flops— (John Clayton got all this from the 
Indian government and they from the consulate in New York) and 
then he more or less disappeared from view, though making millions 
writing scripts in Hollywood, until the 1930's, when he emerged as 
a writer on shooting. Some of these later books I had read— King of 
the Icefloes, Safari, An American Hunter. Then he'd been a war 
correspondent, and just a couple of years ago had written something 
called Return to the Duchess. . . . He'd had numerous wives, and 
looked like Apollo— thirty years on. He was bald but wore a toupee, 
not a very good one. His skin was a peculiar gray shade, odd in a man 
who spent so much time out of doors. He had blurred gray-blue eyes 
and a fine sensitive mouth. 

74 



Then there was John Clayton, come down to assist me in dealing 
with this first and all-important batch of clients. Frances sent her best 
wishes, he said. After that we did not mention her again. 

We went to bed about eleven o'clock. The clients were excited, 
and I was keyed up. The next day we were kicking off with a tiger 
hunt on elephants. 

Came the dawn. I checked that the clients had been awakened with 
chota hazri, and went back to the kitchen to see that breakfast was 
coming along. All well. I found the chief mahout in charge of the 
elephants. Work in progress there. 

By 7:00 a.m. we had finished breakfast, but Blauvelt hadn't ap- 
peared. I went to his tent. He was lying in the camp bed, his face 
grayer than ever. His mouth twisted slightly when I entered, and 
he motioned wearily to the bedside table, where there was a glass 
of water and four bottles of pills. "I'm sorry, colonel ... a touch of 
the old fever." 

"What a shame," I said. The place stank of whisky, and I knew, if 
I looked, I'd see an empty bottle under the bed. 

"It always does this to me," he said. "Been suffering with it since 
'24, when I went to Uganda." 

"Damned shame," I said. Blauvelt's eyes flicked onto mine, passed 
by. He knew that I knew. One observed the amenities. 

"I'll probably be all right tomorrow, maybe even this afternoon. 
The temperature usually goes down in the afternoon," he said. 

I nodded and slipped out. I'd have to rearrange the groupings on 
the elephants. 

The elephants appeared, swinging round the corner of the Rest 
House in single file. They knelt and we climbed up into the howdahs 
on a little stepladder. I put myself on the lead elephant, with Lady 
Hillburn; Hillbum and Dot Wilson on the second; George Wilson 
and John Clayton on the third. Two spare elephants followed. Every- 
one had a good heavy rifle except Dot Wilson, who said, quite 
rightly, that she couldn't lift it. Naturally, John and I were not going 
to shoot except in emergency. 

We rolled off down the drive, onto the cart track, left toward 
Pattan. The mahouts sagged comfortably on the elephants' necks. 
Everyone except John and me was wearing a huge quilted sola topi. 
Cynthia Hillbum wore a daringly cut bush shirt and khaki slacks. 

We rolled majestically past the old temples, and Cynthia looked 

75 



at the carvings with a clinical sort of interest. On through Pattan, 
where what was left of the population (half the men were out as 
beaters) lined the muddy path to watch us pass. Kunthi and Devi 
stood in a doorway in Kunthi's parents' house, looking very sexy. 
Lok Chand came out, made salaam, and told me the beaters had 
left two hours earlier. Chadi would meet me at the rendezvous and 
confirm that all was in order. 

We heaved on, a convoy of little ships in line in the great ocean 
of the jungle. We passed a small lake set among red rocks, and 
there was a man burning brushwood on the far side. Two pictures 
came together before my eyes, unconnected in time or space but 
superimposed now by a combination of stimuli— I saw Rifleman 
Jitbahadur Gurung, dead the previous evening from a tribesman's 
rifle bullet through the chest, lying on a rough platform of logs. 
Nearby the battalion Brahmin intoned a prayer. My company 
mbadar squatted beside me, and the flames were beginning to rise 
from the pyre. That picture was from 1937. Behind and in that 
picture there was the water of a lake, not this one, another, but it was 
water, and a pale gray-green light along the horizon, and I waited 
with shotgun ready. Above the crackle of the logs, where Jitbahadur 
burned in the first picture, I heard the whirring wings of the wild 
duck flighting, and felt my orderly stiffen behind me, and we 
crouched deeper into the reeds. That was a cold-weather dawn in 
the Punjab— 1936 perhaps? 

The elephant rolled on. 

But where else had I smelled the incense burning, and rich oils 
on a flame? I saw a man and a woman in gorgeous clothes kneeling 
over a brazier, and the flames leaping up red onto his face. The girl 
kept her head down and her sari drawn far forward, and I saw nothing 
of her skin. Hand in hand, round and round the fire they went in the 
ceremony of marriage. Now, as before, a second picture super- 
imposed—this time a long file of men and women struggling up a 
stony path, a strong cold river beside them. Where was that? Why 
so many old men with sticks, and old women carried on beds on the 
shoulders of coolies? 

"Badrinath," I cried, "the pilgrim road to Badrinath!" 

"I beg your pardon?" 

The peeress was staring at me. Hard as a bar of steel, I thought. I 
must make sure she got at least two good trophies, or she would see 



that the word went round— Savage is a fake. 

I said, "Sorry. My mind was wandering." 

"So it appeared," she said, "you were looking straight through me." 

"What a waste," I said lightly, and then she smiled. I made sure 
we weren't touching in the howdah. No Francis Macomber stuff 
for me. 

When we reached the rendezvous Chadi and Gulu, the Gond 
chief, and a dozen villagers were waiting there. We had covered four 
miles and were in scattered jungle near the head of the Shakkar 
River. Here the valley, which had been climbing gradually between 
the steep walls of the escarpments, spread and widened. The river 
was only a stream, and we looked south over a sea of waving tall 
brown grass, with a few trees dotted among it. It must have been 
an old lake bed, for it was quite flat, and nearly two miles long by a 
mile wide. Tigers frequently lay up in there, and it was just the 
country for a hunt from elephants, the only such area anywhere 
near Pattan. 

The elephants knelt and we all got down. "We'll have about half 
an hour here," I told the clients, "in case anyone wants to stretch 
his legs. Only don't go forward of this line, please." They stood 
in a group, lighting cigarettes and talking. 

Chadi said, "There are two in the grass, sahib, a male and a female. 
The other pair may be in there still, but Gulu thinks they left during 
the night." 

I thanked Gulu. This hunt would have been impossible without 
the Gonds' help . . . and that stemmed from old William Savage. 
I was living on the reputation of my great-great-grandfather. 

We ran through the plans again. The elephants were to get into 
position first. That meant moving forward about a quarter of a mile, 
to a point where the grass sea was just wide enough to take four 
elephants at a proper distance from each other, about a hundred 
yards. The villagers would extend the line, so that the tigers would 
not try to escape past the ends. When we were in position Mitoo 
would start down the grass from the far end, in the center of thirty 
beaters. 

More bloody tigers, I thought, that's what I need. At least one for 
Hillburn, assuming that Lady Hillburn and George Wilson got these 
two. I would have needed another except for Blauvelt's ague. He had 
to get a tiger sometime, and a good one, even if I put it in a cage and 

77 



brought it to his tent so that he could stun it with a bottle. When 
viceroys and globe-trotting grand dukes used to hunt tiger the 
maharajahs would have men trapping the beasts for a month before- 
hand, and cart them to the area, and release them only as the beat 
started. But those spacious days were gone, and I just didn't have 
the resources. 

The elephants knelt again, we mounted, and moved forward, the 
villagers on the flanks. At the far end of the grass I heard the heavy 
boom of the village blunderbuss. We reached our position and 
waited* The hot, spring wind blew down the sea of grass, making 
long, curved waves, changing the color and the brightness. The grass 
stood about six feet tall, with heavy tasseled tops. The elephants 
grunted and moved about. None of them were trained for this sort 
of thing. 

A tremendous roaring boom made me jump, and our elephant 
backed and fidgeted. There was no sign of Hillburn in his howdah. 
Mrs. Wilson, her fingers in her ears, was yammering with terror. 
That elephant was dancing about and curving up her trunk. Hillburn 
hauled himself up into view from the bottom of the howdah. His 
dear lady beside me snapped, "Charles has shot at a bird/' 

I had noticed a jungle hen rocketing skyward just after the shot 
Damned fool. That would alert the tigers long before they were 
near us. 

"Sorry," Hillburn called to the company in general, "I slipped, 
trying to keep my balance, and it went off ... I say, can't you keep 
this animal still?" 

My heart sank. We waited another ten minutes— fifteen, thirty. 
The beaters were coming very slowly. Now and then I saw an arm 
waving above the grass, and heard the clatter of pots and pans 
coming closer. 

Cynthia Hillburn raised the heavy rifle and swung right. "Mine," 
she called, her eye to the sight and her cheek cuddled professionally 
into the butt. 

I saw a tigress, a good one, creeping along on her belly almost 
directly toward the elephant on our right, Hillburn and Dot Wilson's. 
It was not Cynthia's tiger by a mile, but let them fight that out. She 
fired, and the tigress sank her head to the ground and never moved. 

"Good shot!" I said, and had no time for more, as I saw her swing 
the rifle up to her shoulder again. This time it was a big male tiger, 

78 



following at a hard gallop in his mate's tracks. George Wilson must 
have seen that if he didn't fire at once he was going to lose this one, 
too, because Hillburn had not even got his rifle into his shoulder, 
and the peeress was clearly a lady who shot first and discussed the 
niceties later— if at all. He fired. The tiger bounded into the air and 
began clawing at the head of Hillbum's elephant. The mahout 
scrambled back into the howdah, the elephant screamed and turned, 
ready to bolt. I took a big chance and, aiming at the tiger's hind 
quarters, fired, and blew it off the elephant onto the ground, where 
Wilson dispatched it with a final shot through the heart. 

I reloaded— we were all using double-barreled rifles, as I think 
they are safer with dangerous game. Cynthia reloaded. "That's going 
to be all," I said, "I don't think there are any . . " 

But, by God, the rifle was whipping up into her shoulder again, 
and on came a third beast, this one a real monster of an old tiger 
with a magnificent ruff, heading along the same trail, straight for 
Hillburn. 

I pushed Cynthia's rifle barrel up and yelled "Yours," to Hillburn. 
He was leaning far out over the front of the howdah. The mahout 
crouched underneath, lying almost flat. Blood ran from long claw 
stripes down the elephant's neck and forehead, and some of it had 
got on the mahout, who looked as though he had been mauled. 
From the corner of my eye I saw Cynthia's mouth set in a hard 
straight line. Hillburn fired both barrels at once. He dropped the 
tiger stone dead, but you can't fire both barrels of a big-game rifle 
without ill effects. Hillburn went straight over backward, and out 
of the howdah altogether. As he fell, heavily, his lady snapped, 
"Bloody fool," put on her safety catch, and found a cigarette. 

We had a picnic lunch by the lake we had passed on the way up. 
Everyone, except perhaps me, was in tremendous good humor, and 
very excited, even Cynthia in her cold-fish way. After pointing out 
that she knew the etiquette of shooting quite well, thank you, she 
indicated that I was quite a presentable male, for a colonel, Indian 
Army, and that she would tell me, in due course, when I was to be 
given the privilege of pleasuring her. George Wilson measured his 
trophy in every direction. Hillburn drank more champagne than he 
could carry, and showed us his bruises. He was turning purple-black 
already, all over his right shoulder. Then we went home to the Rest 
House, and sat up late— Blauvelt too. He talked a great deal and was 

79 



very amusing, mostly at his own expense. 

For the next day I had arranged a small-game beat. When we were 
almost ready to go— no sign of H. Huntington Blauvelt. I went to 
his tent and said sympathetically, 'The old trouble again?" 

I don't know why I felt sympathetic. If the bastard didn't go out 
shooting, what could he write that would help us? But he looked gray 
and worn and vulnerable, and I liked him. 

"No," he said. "A touch of dysentery, old man. Got it in Green- 
land, of all places, back in '38 . . . some piece of seal meat the 
Eskimos gave me. Never shaken it off." His fine mouth was twisted 
in disgust. The place stank of alcohol— not whisky this time, some- 
thing else, coarser and sweeter. I knew it wasn't whisky, because I'd 
counted the bottles in the bar at bedtime, and at dawn, just to find 
out how much he did take. He'd had about a bottle during the after- 
noon and evening, but had not taken any to bed with him; and he 
didn't have any of his own. The bearer I'd allotted to him told me 
that. I sighed wearily. He must be getting arrack from the village. 
Well, I'd find out . . . not that I could do anything about it. 

"Hope you'll be better by afternoon," I said, and left him. 

We set off, myself again with Cynthia. I felt tired. After the others 
went to bed I'd sat up till nearly three in the morning, talking to 
Chadi, Mitoo, Ganesha, and Gulu about the leopard shoot planned 
for the next day after this. I did not expect this small-game beat to 
produce much. The leopard shoot had to succeed. 

The beat was to be over a stretch of rolling upland jungle about 
halfway between Pattan, in the valley, and an even more isolated 
village called Dhain, on the hills to the west. The beaters— forty men 
from Pattan and ten from Dhain— were already in position outside 
Dhain. When we were ready, at nine o'clock, they'd drive toward 
us through the teak and sal jungle. 

I spread the shooters out, giving each one a Pattan man as general 
factotum and helper, though none of them could speak English. I 
put Wilson and Cynthia Hillburn in the middle, where I expected 
the best game to come down a slight fold in the ground; Hillburn 
and John Clayton on the extreme right, where some animals might 
try to break past the line; and Dottie Wilson on the extreme left, 
with myself. 

We waited. We waited a long time. You can't hurry game if 
you want to guide them, and the beaters had a long way to come, 

80 



and they had to come slowly to make sure that no animals hid in the 
scrub until they had passed. Their line was long, fairly extended and 
the shape of an untidy crescent, the points toward us. 

Hillbum got the first animal— a small lean boar. Dot Wilson had 
got over her initial nervousness, having found she could lift the 
lighter rifle, and I had left her and was standing by a tree more or 
less behind the center of the line, where I could see everyone. Hill- 
burn struggled to his feet— he had been lying down— waddled forward 
to inspect his trophy, kicked it, and waddled back. 

Wilson fired next, about five minutes later, and got the stag out of 
a small herd of five chital that came straight at him at full gallop. 
The chital is a small and beautiful deer which I personally don't 
like shooting— it has white-spotted brown hide and a big white tail 
and a fine delicate head. Wilson dropped his cold with a single shot 
at about sixty yards. Dot Wilson fired at another chital, a doe, and, 
thank God, missed. Cynthia expertly polished off a small sambhur. 
Another long wait, then a bunch of weasels, rabbits, and jackals 
dashed out. Dot Wilson got a jackal in the hind leg, though I was 
calling to her not to waste her shots. I killed it as it crawled away. 

By then I was kneeling behind Cynthia Hillbum. A big boar 
charged out, head down, and passed close by us, going like an express 
train. The peeress never raised her rifle. "I have not come here to 
shoot pig," she drawled. 

Then we had a long pause, with nothing moving. The rattle of the 
pots and the clangor of the tin cans on the ends of sticks came 
closer and closer. There was no tiger grass here and we could see a 
long way through the glades of the jungle. It was very hot. I could 
see the beaters clearly now, their thin legs working, right, left, right, 
pause, raise the stick, rattle-rattle, on again. When they had closed 
to about two hundred yards from us, I stood up, cupped my hands, 
and called, "No more shooting, please." 

I saw Wilson jerk the bolt and eject the cartridge from his rifle. 
At my feet Cynthia Hillburn began to do the same, when a gigantic 
sambhur stag broke cover dead ahead of us, and no more than sixty 
yards away. He was as good as the one Fd got to feed the village. 
Where he could have been hiding that great bulk and that superb 
spread of horns, in that open jungle, I don't know— but there he was, 
running at a gallop from right to left across our front, between us 
and the beaters. 

81 



Cynthia Hillburn slammed shut the bolt of her Mannlicher and in 
the same motion lifted it to her shoulder. As I jumped forward, she 
fired. I slammed the muzzle down into the ground with my foot, 
the sambhur leaped high in a long convulsive buck, and collapsed. 
It looked as if she'd got him clean through the neck, severing the 
spinal cord. A grunting, screaming cough from the farther trees made 
my hair stand on end. It broke down into a confused gobbling moan. 
I saw a beater writhing on the ground. 

I stood over the Hillburn woman, a painful knot in my belly. 
If my rifle had been in my hand I would have shot her, but I'd put 
it down when I called to everyone to stop firing. I whispered, "You 
selfish, self-indulgent bitch! You want a bayonet ramming up your 
cunt. Now get back to the Rest House, pack, and get out, at once." 

She looked pale, but composed. It was, after all, only a peasant, 
and a black one at that. 

I ran to the wounded man. It was Piroo, the girl Kunthi's father. 
The expanding bullet had gone straight through the sambhur's neck, 
without mushrooming much, and hit Piroo in the left shoulder, mak- 
ing a bloody mess of the collar bone. He was in agony and I opened 
my first-aid haversack and gave him a shot of morphia. Then with 
George Wilson's proficient help I bandaged the wound with a shell 
dressing and my shirt. Meanwhile one of the young men had run off 
as fast as he could go to the Rest House, to bring Ratanbir and the 
jeep to Pattan. Then a couple of strong men lifted Piroo and began 
to carry him down to the village. As I followed, I saw the peeress 
examining her trophy. Before she could stop me I snatched the 
Mannlicher from her hand and with a few savage swipes broke the 
antlers in several pieces. I don't suppose I did the rifle much good, 
either. 

She said coldly, "That was quite unnecessary. ... I will, of course, 
pay compensation to that man." 

"Our insurance covers that," I said, "and no compensation can 
pay for an act of pure, selfish murder, done to get a trophy. I told 
you to pack your bags and get out." 

"It was pretty bad luck," John Clayton said awkwardly, "I mean, 
the bullet going right on through. Of course Lady Hillburn 
shouldn't . . ." He always thought of money, our John. Why not? 
He was a businessman. He wasn't stingy, but to him this was a 
business venture, and his money, his savings, were involved. 

82 



"Look," I said to the peeress, "I'm going to Lapri with Piroo now. 
When I get back, I don't know how long that will be, you had 
better be gone." Then I ran down the slope. 

When we reached the Lapri Mission nearly an hour later Piroo 
was dopey with the morphia, and not in so much pain. I was driving 
the jeep, Ratanbir following in the Bentley. I left Kunthi and Chadi 
holding Piroo, and hurried into the shack that was the hospital. The 
Holy Roller was there, bending over a bed in the corner. She turned, 
and half raised one arm defensively. 

"For Christ's sake!" I snapped. I recovered myself. "I beg your 
pardon, Mrs. Wood. I have a badly wounded man outside. Bullet 
through the left shoulder." 

She said, "I am a nurse, you know, not a doctor . . . Bring him 
in, that door." 

We carried Piroo into the little operating room. It was small, clean, 
and primitive. She undid the bandages, and then began to move 
with decision and certainty, cleaning the wound while the rest of 
us held him down. She talked to herself in a low voice: "The clavicle 
is fractured . . . compound . . . shoulder blade irregular in the 
lower part. I can feel it— pierced by the bullet . . . lacerated exit 
wound . . . lucky he was not wearing any clothes to be driven into 
the hole. He must have a tetanus injection." 

She took a needle, filled it, gave him the injection, and wrote on 
his forehead with some purple dye: TT 2 cc 1230 19/3. 

"He must go to the general hospital in Bhowani as soon as pos- 
sible," she said. "He must get there before shock sets in." 

"I'm ready now," I said. "Is he?" 

She nodded. I told Chadi that I was off. Chadi looked troubled, 
and Piroo reached out his right arm slowly and took my hand. He 
whispered, "The sahib log . . . the hunting . . ." 

"What do they matter when . . . ?" I began. But of course Chadi 
and Piroo were worrying about the success of my hunting camp. For 
the people of Pattan it might make the difference between near- 
starvation and a halfway decent life. Or was it my success they were 
worrying about? I couldn't follow the inner causes any further. Piroo 
was severely wounded and I, being responsible for him, ought to take 
him to Bhowani and see him into hospital. 

Piroo said, "You must not come, sahib." He tried to sit up, his 
face working. "The camp! The sahib logl" 

83 



I turned to Margaret Wood. "He ought to have a nurse with him 
on the drive. Can you go?" 

"No," she said abruptly. 

I glared at her; then told Chadi and Kunthi to carry Piroo out to 
the Bentley. I told Ratanbir to drive them to Bhowani hospital, fast 
but not too fast. Five minutes later they were gone. Margaret Wood 
and I stood alone in the road outside the hospital, opposite the tiny 
chapel and its graveyard. 

"Why couldn't you go with him?" I said. "He might need atten- 
tion on the journey— trained attention," I added, to forestall any 
criticism from her. I ought to have gone, but I knew Piroo would 
fret himself into a terrible state if I did. He thought my clients 
would starve to death, or die of terror in the wild Indian jungles, if 
I left them alone for even a few hours. Perhaps the Holy Roller had 
recognized all that, too, because she did not try to counterattack me. 
She said, "I did not go because I cannot. I have two patients in there 
who need me." 

"Don't you have any other nurses trained, after all these years?" 
I said. 

She turned on me like a panther, her dark-gold hair shaking heavy 
over her shoulders. "I did have trained nurses," she cried. "I have 
trained eleven since I came here nearly two years ago. They have 
all gone! You have lured them away with your filthy money and your 
filthy life, the way you Ve lured back all the men." 

"Only four girls came to you from Pattan," I said automatically. 
My temper rose. My nerves were throbbing and curling like a 
broken bridge cable. I snapped, "And they came back because they 
don't want your damned religion rammed down their throats. 
They've got one of their own." 

"Organized lechery!" she cried. "Worship of sticks and stones! But 
you are the real cause. Why can't you go away and leave me in peace?" 

"Go away?" I said. "I'm only starting. I'm going to be in Pattan 
for a long, long time. I shall be here long after you've appreciated 
the impudence of what you're doing, packed up and gone home, 
where you belong." 

I spoke with the assurance of temper. Actually I was not at all 
sure how the camp would go, especially after throwing out the peers 
in such a highhanded manner and getting no publicity from Blauvelt. 

For a moment she seemed to lose all control of herself. 'Til see 

8 4 



that you go!" she cried. "You wait! You're not as safe as you think 
you are! I know what you're doing!" 

I felt in my pocket, fished out a handful of rupees, and threw 
them at her. "For the treatment," I said. "Don't bother to send a 
receipt." 

Then I got into the jeep and drove away. In the rear-view mirror 
I saw her staring at the rupee notes in the road. Before I turned the 
corner she stooped and picked them up. I felt a sharp pang of 
pleasure at seeing her degrade herself; then realized that she had no 
choice. She needed the money for the mission, and the hospital. 
It was only myself I had degraded by that gesture. That did not 
improve my temper. 

Halfway to the Rest House John Clayton passed me in his car 
and I saw the Hillburns in it. He waved to me, rather nervously. The 
Hillburns sat up straight, ignoring me. 

The Wilsons were sitting out on the lawn, in the shade of the big 
neem tree in the corner, overlooking the stream. H. Huntington 
Blauvelt's spot of dysentery seemed to have gone, for he was there, 
too, drinking pink gin. I ordered one for myself, drank it down, and 
ordered another. Wilson said, "I want you to know, colonel, that I 
would have done the same thing in your place." 

"And so would I," Blauvelt said. 

I thanked them. Dot Wilson looked a little glum. Partly the sight 
of blood, I thought, and partly the departure of the peerage. It was 
she who, a little later, said, "It's so pretty here, isn't it?" She waved 
her hand at the tents, the Rest House, the Irish bridge, the heavy 
trees. "So pretty. And quite different from what I expected, really." 

"What did you expect?" I asked. There was an edge to my voice, 
and in my mind I suddenly saw John Clayton's worried face. I added 
in an oily tone, "If there's anything we can do, please let me know." 

Dot spread her plump hands. "Well, India, you know . . . the 
splendor and the spiritualism." She burbled on. Yoga. Mysterious. 
The Razors Edge. Nice maharajah, met in Lander, Wyoming, hunt- 
ing antelope. Lives of a Bengal Lancer. H. Huntington Blauvelt was 
looking at me with real sympathy in his eye. He poured two gins, 
and thrust one into my hand. George Wilson said nothing. He liked 
the shikar, but he too had expected something different. 

What they were saying, really, was that they were being cheated 
of India because they were being shown it by an Englishman. They 

85 



wanted to be seated here, or in some more Oriental equivalent, but 
with a maharajah in my role, deep-thinking Hindus wandering in 
and out, a yogi (English-speaking) at the gate, ready to expound 
abstruse spiritual themes. I felt tired and a little ill. No place for me 
even here, if this were true. 

We did nothing much that afternoon. In the evening John Clayton 
came back. I was glad he did not speak again about the Hillburns. 
I suppose he had realized that, though some of his savings were at 
stake, my whole life was. 

The following morning Wilson and I fished— poor sport, un- 
happily—while Dot inspected the hand-loomed cloth I'd got some 
of the village women to start making, in bold patterns, for outside 
sale. At lunchtime we heard that Piroo was out of danger, though 
he'd be in hospital a month or so and might never be able to raise 
his left arm more than a few inches. In the evening we set out to 
sit up for panther. Again, Gulu and his Gonds had been at work 
for days on my behalf, the machans were ready, Blauvelt had no 
dysentery or ague, and I felt optimistic. 

Optimistic, but unsettled. During the afternoon I had a sudden 
terrible yearning for Sumitra, as definite as a fever, which left me 
trembly and full of an appalling loneliness. That was succeeded by 
another, this one mixed with intense curiosity— what sort of woman, 
what sort of human being was she, really?— and with a violent, stal- 
lionlike desire. 

Long before dusk we clambered up into the howdahs and rolled 
off along the cart track, past the temples, through Pattan with its 
usual crowd of onlookers, and then directly into the jungle, going 
slightly west of south. After a mile we came to the first machan, on 
the bank of a small stream, and Blauvelt scrambled down, carrying 
his rifle very professionally in the crook of his right arm. "I ought 
to be back in half an hour or less," I called down to him. A villager 
was there, tying up a lusty goat. 

"Fine," he answered. We left him gazing interestedly up at the 
machan in which he and I intended to sit. A few hundred yards 
farther on John Clayton and Dot Wilson got up into their machan 
and, farther on still, George Wilson and Ganesha, who had excellent 
night vision. Each machan had a goat tied up underneath it. I 
started back. 

At the first machan Blauvelt was sitting on the ground, his head 

86 



back against a tree trunk. He put a hand to his forehead when he 
saw me coming, and struggled to his feet. I climbed down. He looked 
gray and weary, the mouth twisted into the familiar scorn. 

"A touch of the old neuralgia/' he said, "got it at Saint-Mihiel in 
the trenches, in '18 . . ." 

For a moment I thought I was going to lose my temper. But I 
couldn't, not with him. Instead, what I wanted to do came to me 
with great clarity and force. I wanted to get drunk with H. Hunting- 
ton Blauvelt. The Wilsons were installed, there was no reason on 
earth why I should sit here, alone, and have my goat distract the 
leopards, if any, away from the Wilsons'. I untied the goat and it 
galloped off toward Pattan. 

"I'll come back with you," I said. 

Blauvelt's eyes lit up and his face brightened. He licked his lips. 
Then he remembered the neuralgia. After all, he had his pride. 
This kind of drinking, to sodden oblivion, was better done alone. 
"If my head gets any better," he said, "otherwise I'm afraid . . ." 

"A couple of aspirins will fix that," I said cheerfully. I felt good, 
bounding with vitality. We climbed back into the howdah and set 
out for the Rest House. On our way through Pattan I told Lok Chand 
to make sure that no one from the village left the houses after dark, 
so as not to disturb the leopards; and spoke to Gulu, who said he 
thought there were at least four leopards in the area, and all hungry. 
I felt better yet. 

We rolled on. As we passed the temples Blauvelt said, "You know, 
I've never had a look at those." 

"Now's the time," I cried. "We can see well enough. Besides, we 
have a lantern." 

Our elephant knelt and I lit the hurricane lantern I'd taken along. 
I also had a powerful flashlight. I told the head mahout to take all 
the elephants back to the Rest House, and warn the cook that two 
of us would be in for dinner, and we wanted a good one. 

Blauvelt and I walked through the short grass to the platform and 
climbed up. Blauvelt shone the flashlight around— it was not fully 
dark yet, but without the light there were only vague shapes, no clear 
outlines. The wavering powerful beam picked up a red group tower- 
ing above us on the wall of the nearest temple. "My God!" Blauvelt 
muttered. It was a woman standing with right hip curved out in a 
pose of utter pride and joy in being a woman. Two men stood be- 

87 



side her, one cupping her right breast, the other pleasuring her loins. 
All three smiled proudly up at the night sky. Blauvelt stood trans- 
fixed, a dim insubstantial shadow-being linked by the bar of light to 
the real life up there in the stone. Jackals cackled in the jungle behind 
and Blauvelt moved the light on. 

We walked slowly around, stumbling now and then, for Blau- 
velt held the light upward and I too was looking up. There were 
many garlands and offerings on and around the base of the great 
phallus. When Blauvelt switched off the flashlight the more diffuse 
light of the hurricane lantern put us in the middle of a huge cave 
of darkness, peopled by these vital images of love— all kinds of love, 
for there were women holding babies, and couples holding hands, 
totally loving but not linked sexually at that moment, and an old 
man playing in the dust with his grandson, and children in a long 
frieze riding the buffaloes back to the village, as you could see them 
any day now if you went out to look. 

After half an hour we left. "I need a drink," Blauvelt said. 

"You shall have one," I said. "And so shall I. Many drinks." 

He didn't speak on the short walk to the Rest House. He didn't 
speak until we were sitting in the common room, where the bar was, 
large brandy-and-sodas in our hands. He finished his in two gulps, and 
put it down with a sigh. 

He looked at me. "Colonel, you have been thinking you didn't 
get much value out of me, especially as I am a nonpaying guest, eh?" 

It was true, and I didn't attempt to deny it. "It doesn't matter," 
I said. "After what I did to Lady Hillburn, and realizing that tourists 
want something more exotically Indian, I don't think it's going to 
work anyway." 

He said, "More exotic? Well, yes, you might fix up a bare-ass holy 
man or two, and a snake charmer, and maybe arrange a visit to a 
maharajah. You'd better do that, next time, because I shall write that 
you had it all this time. And I shall write about the near-record heads 
I got, thrilling days on the trail of the king of beasts, the hard com- 
radeship of the jungle, the quiet luxury of the hunting lodge. And all 
of that will hinge on the central character— the tough, hard-bitten 
white hunter. Women swoon for him, but he doesn't give a damn. 
He'd as soon slap a beautiful countess's face as undress her." 

I poured myself another brandy. 

"There are two kinds of truth, colonel," he said pontifically, "and 

88 



you know only one. I am going to write the best, most exciting piece, 
about you and about this place, that I've ever written. Then that will 
be truth for everyone who reads it, which is going to be approximately 
fifteen million people in the United States alone. Afterward, when 
they start coming here in droves, you'll find that events will conform 
to what I've written, and you will conform to the character I've 
painted. You'll have to." 

I knew, without a moment's thought, that he was speaking the 
truth. That was just how it would be. The jungle recluse, dedicated to 
his village and his animals, the "character" whom one had to 
meet . . . 

"You'll have to," he repeated bitterly. "Once a certain image of 
you has been created, you have to conform to it. I know. The Dough- 
boy and the Duchess was a freak. I didn't really feel at all like that. I 
was copying someone else, and it worked. Afterward I tried to write 
the way I really wanted to ■ . . . tender, sensitive, introspective things, 
about what makes men and women tick, without drama or excitement, 
no violence, all the action inward. They flopped. There was this 
enormous pressure on me to be the man who'd created that tough, 
sexy, the-hell- with-it bastard Bill Carden. Everyone thought it was 
autobiographical. Jesus, it wasn't even wish fulfillment. . . . And 
what do you want to be?" 

I couldn't answer him at once. I had wanted to be a good soldier, 
a good businessman, a good lover, many more or less unconnected 
things. Now I didn't know. Perhaps more than anything else I wanted 
to escape the present, and sink into Pattan. But, then, I felt lonely. 

Slowly, with unusual hesitation, I tried to tell Blauvelt something 
of this. He listened, drinking from time to time, his sad eyes fixed 
intently on mine. He said at once, when I finished, "Why haven't 
you got a village girl?" 

I mumbled something unintelligible. 

He said, "As long as you hold aloof, it means you are not satis- 
fied, you have not yourself accepted what you say you want. There's 
someone else, isn't there, and you're thinking she will come here 
to you ... to complete your happiness? Well, she won't, and if she 
does, it won't be to sink into Pattan with you, but to drag you out. 
... It happened to me, you know. I married my first wife in the full 
flush of fame after Doughboy. It seemed like the final touch of 
happiness— but remember, I wanted to sink into an introspective 

8 9 



life, and she not only wanted to bring me back to the 'real' outside 
world— she was that world. It failed after two years. . . . I'm afraid, 
Rodney, you've got to marry someone who is interested in you, in- 
volved with you, not with what you do, or might do, or can do." 

I thought of Janaki. Yes, she had been involved in me; but now 
she was the other side of the wall, and would be for as long as Max 
lived, and, very probably, beyond that. Sumitra . . . Blauvelt's un- 
canny empathy had felt, through God knows how many protective 
layers, that her interest in all men was in their capacities and capa- 
bilities, not in them. And that this interest would not extend to a 
man's capacity for self-withdrawal. And, remember, he hadn't even 
met her. 

Blauvelt said, "You're here. You're going to stay here. Take a girl 
from Pattan, and settle down. This camp is going to be a success. 
I personally guarantee it. I'm going on to Chambalpur from here, as 
a guest of the Nawab— I don't know why they're inviting me, but 
I'm sure I'll find out soon enough what it is they want publicized 
. . . and I'll write the piece about you as soon as I get there. By mid- 
summer you'll be snowed under with applications." 

I knew why they were inviting him to Chambalpur— to put Cham- 
bal's case for independence before the world, especially the American 
public, in a roundabout sort of way. Well, that was the world I was 
trying to get away from, the world which involvement with Sumitra— 
or any other woman from "civilization"— would drag me back into. 

Blauvelt stood up suddenly. "Come on, let's send for a couple of 
girls. Break it up! Make up your mind. The temples, and Pattan . . . 
or this lady of yours, and the God-damned, stinking rat race outside. I 
know what J want. I want the temples . . . right now." 

I hesitated a little longer. It was easy for him. He didn't really mean 
that he wanted the lost, all-loving world of the temples— he meant he 
wanted it tonight, as a respite from the rat race. For me, the choice 
was permanent. 

I made up my mind, by what process or accident I do not know. 
"All right," I said. I called for Ratanbir and told him to take the 
jeep and fetch Devi and Kunthi. He saluted woodenly and went out. 
One of the things I was giving up was being a sahib, with a sahib's 
standards, and it came surprisingly hard. A sahib does not involve his 
servant with his amours, or he will upset the man's sense of values 
and of his own position. 

90 



Half an hour later the girls slipped in, making deep namasti. 
Kunthi had her war paint on— a diaphanous sari, made of material I'd 
given her, with no underclothes or bodice, her nipples painted red, 
reddish-blue lines drawn with face paint under the swell of her 
breasts to make them stand out more, and the sari itself slightly 
damped so that it clung to every curve and fold of her body. Devi 
never used those artifices. She was thin and intense, tonight looking 
almost demonic, her eyes huge and heavily rimmed with kohl in her 
small, pointed face. 

I poured them drinks. Like most of the people of Pattan, they 
either didn't drink at all or they drank to extinction, but I hoped 
to keep them from passing out tonight. 

I pulled Devi down on my knee. Kunthi went to Blauvelt. We 
fondled them and they smiled. We all drank. Blauvelt got excited. 
I told the girls to take their saris off, it wasn't going to make much 
difference. They did so, and danced a languid indecent dance, gliding 
round the table, bending over us and in front of us, singing softly 
in their high wavering voices. 

We ate, off and on. Carlos the butler dropped the soup when he 
first came into the room, later became so uplifted that Blauvelt in- 
vited him to join us at the table. He looked nervously at me, but, 
as I said, this was good-by to sahibdom, and I held him by the 
shoulders and forced him to sit down. Also Ratanbir. More girls ap- 
peared, and some men from Pattan. 

At about two in the morning I had a great idea, the sort that often 
strikes at that hour. We went in a body, singing lewd songs, to the 
temples, and lit several bonfires on the platform. Ratanbir in the 
jeep brought along two or three cases of rum. No one wore any 
clothes, or, if so, they were peripheral and decorative rather than 
prurient in purpose. Devi's mother, Piroo's wife, for instance, wore a 
bodice but nothing else. Most men kept on their ragged puggarees. 
Many women wore the red garghara, the short swinging skirt of the 
peasant women, feeling that it was more proper— as the temple carv- 
ings often showed— to lift them or have them lifted while they danced 
and coupled, rather than go stark-naked. Blauvelt, forgetting which 
particular past he was re-entering, pranced about like a long, thin Pan, 
blowing tunelessly on someone's wooden pipe. He also took off his 
toupee and threw it away. Whatever I did I kept thinking of Sumitra. 

It was said afterward that the whole village of Pattan joined in 

9 1 



the orgy on the old temple platform. This is not true. The population 
of Pattan was 403 at my last count before this, and there were some 
too old, some ill, some shocked, many tired, some disinterested. At 
dawn we had about forty present and active. The number had fluc- 
tuated all night, starting low, building, decreasing, increasing again. 
Nor was it an orgy, but a re-creation of the time and mood of the 
temples themselves, most religiously exact. 

I saw the dawn coming. A greenish light spread fast over the east- 
ern trees. The soaring temple towers, lit by the jumping red light of 
the fires on one side, all darkening into silhouette as the day drew 
on, made a most impressive and moving vision. 

With Kunthi, Devi, and another woman, as a last triumphal act, 
I was trying to get into one of the most complicated of the inter- 
locking positions shown in the carvings. It started with my standing 
on my head against a temple wall. Opposite me, between Kunthfs 
spread legs, I could see the model we were imitating, carved in red 
on another temple. Then, to the side, something alien and out of 
tune caught my eye. Out of tune because it was fearful, and shocked. 
It was the white, strained face of the Holy Roller, Margaret Wood. 

She stood, frozen. I overbalanced, landed right way up, and walked 
over to her, the three women clinging to me wherever they could 
get a hold. Devi was by now on the edge of extinction. 

"What can I do for you, madam?" I asked. I was not far from 
oblivion myself. 

Her lips moved, whispering. "A jackal ... in the operating room 
... It has rabies." 

The light was strong but without any forewarning of the sun, yet. 
Devi slid slowly down my right side and collapsed gently, smiling, on 
the stone, her face to the sky. 

The night was over. 

"And you have no rifle, or anything?" I asked. 

"No," she whispered. "No one in Lapri would help. They wouldn't 
even open the doors to me. It was dark. There was no one at the 
Rest House." She was sweating, her face cold and wet and white. 

I jumped down from the platform and climbed into the jeep. "Get 
in," I said. Like a sleepwalker she climbed in, looking straight ahead. 
On the platform the music and the shouting were dying, and men 
and women staggering home, others lying down where they were, 
out to the world. 

92 



I drove off. The light struck with a jolly warmth against my eyes 
and my head felt full of a joyous nothing. The road curved continu- 
ously when I wasn't looking, the cunning devil, so I had to swing the 
jeep nose fast and keep my wits about me or it would have slipped 
away from me. Once it got away and I had to dash in among the 
trees to catch it again. Margaret Wood bit off a cry but said nothing. 
The jeep seemed to want to fly and once or twice we actually took 
off, but there wasn't enough power, or the aerodynamics weren't 
quite right, and we returned to earth a few yards farther on. 

The buildings of the mission were doing a cheerful fandango 
when I saw them, the bungalow on the left, chapel beyond, hospital 
on the right. "Stop!" Her voice was sharp and full of panic. 

"Whatsa matter? Jackal can't have escaped," I said reasonably. 

"Quick, behind the bungalow, please" she cried. 

"O.K., O.K.," I said, and turned off. 

Behind the bungalow she said, "Stop!" and I stopped. "Quick," 
she grabbed me by the arm and dragged me up the back veranda 
steps, opened a door and jerked me inside. 

"Jackal in here?" I asked in surprise. I knew she'd said the beast was 
in the hospital. But she had vanished. She came back with a pair of 
trousers and a shirt. "Put these on," she said. She'd got plenty of 
color by now, and she wasn't cold or sweating any more. 

Whims of women, I thought, and shrugged. I put on the clothes. 
They didn't fit very well and I couldn't get the trousers on because 
the leg hole had St. Vitus's Dance, and when I had finally done it, 
by sitting down and holding the damned hole so that it couldn't 
escape, I got the other leg in the same hole. She was watching, and 
finally gave a sort of exasperated sigh and knelt down, dragged the 
trousers off me, and then with a couple of expert heaves and a wiggle, 
pulled them on properly. 

"You'd better let me take the rifle," she said. 

"There's no need to be insulting," I said, and walked out to the 
jeep and got the rifle. Then I followed her across the road to the 
hospital. One of the patients, wrapped in a blanket, was standing at a 
back window, peering in. It was a woman and I was glad I had made 
myself presentable. I peered in through the same window, the woman 
respectfully making room for me. I was looking into the little room 
where she had bandaged Piroo's shoulder. The jackal lay on the floor, 
slavering and panting deeply, obviously rabid. "He went in, moaning, 

93 



about four o'clock/' Margaret said. "I heard the patients scream- 
ing ... I ran over and shut the doors . . ." 

I knocked out one pane of glass with the rifle butt, and, leaning 
in, shot the jackal through the head. 

"All right?" I said. 

She nodded wordlessly. "One good turn deserves another," I 
said, and walked back to the jeep. 

"I'll drive you back," she said. I frowned, and she added, "You're 
as drunk as you were the first time we met." 

I said, with dignity, "Madam, we have never met," got into the 
jeep and drove back to the Rest House. Carlos, wan but fully 
clothed, was setting the table for breakfast. Two leopards, one very 
respectable and one magnificent, lay on the lawn with a grinning 
Chadi, Ganesha, and others squatted beside them and Wilson taking 
photographs. The hunting camp was going to be a great success. I 
seemed to have found my niche at last. 

Three days later Blauvelt left for Chambalpur, the Wilsons for 
Agra, and John Clayton for Delhi. They were all very happy. Kunthi 
and Devi had installed themselves in one of the servants' quarters 
and were obviously my property. Dot Wilson had been deliciously 
titillated, George man-to-man approving. By chance a wandering 
bhairagi came by the day after the saturnalia, and I offered him a 
tree, a leaf roof, and the devotion of Pattan if he would be our yogi. 
He agreed, and took up residence. I had a letter from a friend in 
Delhi telling me that everyone was talking about how I had smacked 
Lady Hillburn's face and bodily thrown her out of the Rest House. 
My new suit of personality seemed to be settling into an excellent fit. 

In the afternoon of the 23rd I was sitting on the veranda, reading 
my Sanskrit grammar, when I heard the whir of a small car, and 
Ranjit Singh, the D.C., drove up. I went down to greet him. 

"What about some tea?" I said. "The cook's off, so Ratanbir will 
make it, and it will have pepper in it." 

Ranjit grimaced, but did not smile. He looked worried, almost 
shamefaced, as much as a Sikh can look behind that imposing curled, 
black beard. 

We chatted about nothing in particular until Ratanbir served 
the tea and left us. I noticed his shirt was dirty, but what the hell, 
so was mine. 

94 



After sipping his tea, with the pepper, and grimacing again, Ranjit 
abruptly set down his cup and looked at me. "I've got bad news, 
Savage. You've got to leave Pattan." 

One's instinct is to repeat inanely some word or phrase that has 
shocked you. I try to resist it, and this time, after a pause, said rea- 
sonably, "Don't be silly. I've only just come. I have a long lease." 

He flushed. "It's been canceled." 

I thought suddenly of Margaret Wood. She had sworn she would 
get rid of me, and now I had given her just the evidence she wanted. 
The Government of India, like the rest, exercises a fierce selectivity 
about its own past. You get a pat on the back for bringing the glory 
of Indian art to the world's attention. You get an expulsion order 
for re-creating the guiltless sensuality which made that art possible. 
"The bitch!" I said aloud. "Look, Ranjit, it's in the air here, in the 
people's minds, in their history and folklore." 

The D.C. stared at me with his best inscrutable I.C.S. face. I be- 
came desperate, and yet, at the edge of my mind, had a sharp reali- 
zation that Ranjit and I were playing, in reverse, a scene that had 
been enacted how many million times in the past century and a half 
—the alien consul trying to decide between two quarreling natives— 
which is truth, which is invention to work off a grudge? 

"She's furious because her converts and nurses leave," I said, "but 
it's nothing to do with me." 

Ranjit stroked his beard. 

"She saw what she saw," I pleaded. "I'm not trying to deny it. I'm 
not trying to deny that you have to take a serious view of it. The 
Pandit would have a fit if it got out into world publicity. I know that. 
I'm only saying that it's not vice, here, but something else— tradition, 
love, something. . . . Why are you taking sides with a damned mis- 
sion, trying to convert your own people away from your own reli- 
gion, against me, who's trying to bring tourists into India and gain 
a lot of foreign exchange for you?" 

Ranjit drank tea while I paused to gather breath. He said, "You 
had better tell me just what did happen." 

The wily bugger. Well, I told him. I poured out the whole story 
of the hunting camp from beginning to end, including some sharp 
comments on the government's neglect of the near-famine situation 
in Pattan, which had driven me to poach game to feed them; and 
our illegal methods of killing fish for the same purpose; and my al- 

95 



liance with the Gonds; the tensions of the camp; Lady Hillburn; my 
state of mind; Blauvelt; the choice of sinking right into Pattan, or 
staying alone and lonely, yearning for something I couldn't have— I 
told him all. 

I ended: "So you see, it's not just a simple case of Satan debauching 
innocent villagers." 

Without a word he handed me a long envelope. It was not sealed. 
The letter inside was addressed to me, and signed by the Governor 
of the province, Sir Chandragupta Chenur, another I.C.S. man. He 
informed me that under the provisions of section something or other 
of the Defence of India Act my lease of certain lands and buildings 
lying in the Pattan Reserved Forest (this meant the Rest House) was 
hereby terminated, as were my shooting leases over Blocks 3, 6, 7, 9, 
and 11. I was required to vacate the area by midnight on March 23 
—three days hence. 

I slammed the paper on the table. "Christ, Ranjit, I've just been 
explaining!" 

"Look again," he said. 

I looked again. The message said nothing new to me. But this time 
I noticed the date of the Governor's signature. It was March 19, 
the day of the leopard hunt— that is, before the affair at the temples. 

Ranjit said, "I am not required to give you any reason for the ac- 
tion, under the Act. You know that. And I have been specifically 
ordered— not by the Governor, by high political figures— not to say 
anything at all. But—" he fingered his tie, the same Free Foresters 
tie he had been wearing when I first met him— "between gentlemen 
there are certain decencies . . . You are too close to the frontier with 
Chambal. The Nawab's recent speech decided the government to 
remove all possible sources of danger. You have had contacts with 
the Chambal authorities . . ." 

"About the shooting!" I shouted. "I've got to be able to cross the 
line when the game does. Look, the frontier's just over there." I 
pointed across the Shakkar stream at the rise of rock on the far side 
of the valley, a mile away. 

"I'm sure they would wish they had waited a few days," Ranjit 
said, "if they were ever to hear of this other business. That would 
have given them a much better case. But I suppose they never would 
have heard of it— nor I for that matter. You see, Savage, the real truth 
of the matter is that you have enemies, and the present tension allows 
them to act against you." 

96 



"I have friends, too," I said furiously. "One word and I could have 
you torn in pieces, Ranjit. I could put the clock back here and in 
Bhilghat a long way, back to the time they killed your policeman 
down there! I could destroy your career, and the Governor's. I've 
only got to raise my finger and you'll have a thousand men in rebel- 
lion in these hills." 

He said sadly, "You're right, I'm afraid. Which is why this order, 
instigated by malice though it is, is perhaps right, for India." 

I stood up. I wanted to pick up the table and smash the D.C.'s car 
to pulp with it. I didn't want to hit Ranjit. He was an impersonal 
servant, a disembodied force, pushing and shoving at me. "I had it all 
settled," I said, stammering with rage, "I got out of your damned 
way. I left you to run the bloody country as best you could, and even 
then you had to send for me when you came across something you 
didn't understand. Now you're after me again, dragging me out of 
my hole in the ground. I didn't give a damn about Chambal. Force it 
in, let it join Pakistan, let it be independent, I didn't care. It wasn't 
my business any more. And now you, you . . ." 

Ranjit stood up, too. "I'm really sorry, Savage, and I'm deeply 
ashamed that it was I who had to deliver that order. But I had to, 
and I have. ... If there's anything I can do, now or afterward, to 
help you, please tell me. I mean it." 

I did not answer. After a while, he standing there with his hand 
out and I ignoring it, he turned away and got into his Austin and 
drove off. 

I slumped back in my chair. For a time I just hated— nothing in 
particular, everything. But I do not have the sort of temperament 
that can for long scrabble and batter at an irrevocably closed door. 
Now where? Back farther into the jungles? There were more remote 
places than this, deeper jungles, bigger and less penetrable hills, peo- 
ples still farther removed from the complex meanness of the cen- 
tury. There were Todas in high secret valleys of the Nilgiris; tribes 
in the back of Orissa whom only a dozen outsiders had ever heard 
of; Nagas, Abors, and Mishmis of the Assamese frontier— they were 
hard men, too, and they would fight harder to preserve their own 
ways. There would be other trails to walk, other girls like Kunthi and 
Devi, other fires in the night, other arrack, other dancing. And even 
as I thought of those places and those people I saw Ranjit, wearing 
the impeccable Western dress and the Free Foresters tie, advancing 
steadily, holding a pamphlet on planned economy in one hand and 

97 



a pair of trousers in the other; and behind him, the Indian Army, 
and behind them, the dedicated faces of Jawaharlal Nehru, and L. P. 
Roy, and the ranked Gandhi caps, and the whey-cheeked teetotalers, 
the city planners, the vote getters, the speechmakers, the engineers 
with slide rules, the lawyers pleading habeas corpus, the university 
students carrying dingy banners— every one of them sprung from 
my mind, my work, my wounds. There was no denying that the 
creation of these people, this India, was the object, acknowledged or 
not, of my ancestors— but the wheel had turned full circle, the clock 
again reached twelve. They were forcing me back to the coral strand 
where old Jason Savage must have landed, if he ever existed— but 
where were the magnificent kings who had then walked the sands of 
Coromandel under golden umbrellas? Where were the Rajput knights 
who had put on their wedding silks— the same finery I had seen in 
one of those near-visions, beside the lake— and ridden out to die in 
hopeless battle against such as my ancestors? Where were their 
wives, who lit the pyres and leaped in, children in their arms? Where 
were the Madrassi sepoys who gave Clive the rice at Arcot and took 
only the water themselves, and yet had no knowledge of inferiority? 
Where now did I hear a man say, "I have eaten your salt"? Where 
was the Rani of Kishanpur, splendid in steel armor, hating England 
and loving my great-grandfather? And the men in the stands of 
sugar cane along the bank of the Ravi, who gave you gur and milk 
to drink, and sat talking with you in dignity and pride and poverty 
at the corner of the house, in the shade? Where were the gentle 
lovers of Khajuraho and Pattan, and proud women who walked 
unveiled? Where was the splendor of India's soul, that met Jason 
Savage on that shore three centuries ago? 

What had I done? 

God damn them all. God damn them all. 



9 8 



# 



CKapter 7 



"Margaret Donoghue, you lazy thing, you, will you get out of bed 
now?" 

Her mother's Londonderry brogue was strong, the voice laughing 
under the pretended sharpness. But Margaret couldn't get up. Her 
legs and arms lay like lead prolongations of a central core which had 
only just the strength to realize, and to hear, none to stir or lift. 
That's what it used to be like. Then strength would come very, very 
slowly as her mother clumped up the stairs and sat on the edge of 
the bed, and bent down to kiss her. Then the strength used to flow 
in, starting at the tips of her toes and the ends of her fingers. 

Mother wasn't here. Rats scrabbled at the ceiling cloth. Or 
bats, or flying foxes, or horrible long centipedes, or scorpions, or 
shrews, or some of the small animals that had flitted across her path 
in the earliest dawn as she walked to the Rest House the night the 
jackal came. How long ago was that? A week. The rats would gnaw 
through the cloth and fall on her, helpless in the bed. She stared at 
the ceiling. It was a dim blur. Hard to know whether it was day or 
night outside. The ceiling swam into focus— no movement, no 

99 



bulging and heaving, like sea waves, across from one end to the 
other, as the rats ran across, no squeak or gibber. The creaking con- 
tinued. 

She moaned, and turned her head. Wind, hot-weather wind. The 
window across the room was open and in the twilight she saw trees 
thrashing behind the empty servants' quarters. A spasm gripped her 
belly, she held onto herself with all her strength, leaned out of bed, 
fell to the floor, and crawled across the patched blue durrie on hands 
and knees to the bathroom. She grabbed the edge of the wooden toilet 
box, tried to pull herself up but could not, and relieved the agony 
where she knelt. Afterward she hung dizzy and blind for a time to 
the commode seat, then crawled back into the bedroom, clutched 
the sheet, tried to pull herself up, failed, and fell back to the floor. 
Floor and ceiling, heat and smell, receded on slow painful waves. 

She was cold, shivering in a sleet-laden wind that slashed through 
her clothes and the flesh under them and the bones supporting the 
flesh and the marrow in the bones. She hung against a tree and 
screamed and screamed, alone in the forest with the swinging: corpse 
of herself, hanged from the bough of a tree. The corpse's fare— her 
own— was a flat white with no expression. Rain dripped from its 
face and chin and lay in shining oily drops in its hair. Now she re- 
called with perfect clarity that there had been no rain, and the corpse 
was not real. 

It was worse than that. It was a straw-filled effigy of herself, wearing 
short skirt and blouse, the cardboard face painted white and wisps of 
reddish horse hair representing her own, the effigy dangling on a 
rope from the nearest tree to the chapel, on the side of the graveyard. 

It was worse than that. The instant she saw the horrible thing she 
knew that she did not want to continue the work of the mission. She 
did not have the faith it needed. She had known that for a long 
time, but this show of hate had broken through the facade. When 
had she seen the effigy? In the dusk, when her bones already ached, 
but she was hoping the fever would pass, and had taken quinine and 
gone out for a breath of fresh air. How many days ago? Two, three, 
four? 

Without faith, or purpose, why did she stay? Because she had prom- 
ised Henry that she would. Not in so many words, but in her 
acceptance of marriage, in her comfortings during his last illness, 
which had said as plain as words, I will stay until another comes to 

100 



replace me, however long that may be. But Henry had now become 
a vague figure whose face and eyes she could not recall, whose voice 
had vanished; and from England no other was coming, ever. They 
wrote, and hoped, but she knew. 

She had felt totally empty, like a lake that has been steadily 
drained over a long period, until at last the water is gone; and after 
that the sun has worked on the damp earth and dried it, and there is 
finally neither water nor memory of water. There had been a crisis like 
this, in England, after the war, just before Henry came. Twenty- 
eight years of age passed; the war passed; two of the inevitable nurses* 
affairs with handsome young doctors behind her; gone also three 
successive suitors in whom she had seen nothing, hard as she tried, 
except that they were men . . . and then the crisis of emptiness. 
Henry arrived in the middle of it, obviously in search of a trained 
nurse to be his wife— not the other way round. Yet as soon as he had 
approached her she accepted him— and at once the lake began to 
refill, and she knew again a sense of purpose, of fullness, of fulfillment. 

She realized that she still lay on the floor. Rested now, with a great 
effort she pulled herself onto the bed, and lay there panting feebly. It 
was night, perhaps, but not late. The fourth night. She ought to be 
over it soon, one way or another. The darkness slowly, firmly closed 
in upon her. In an infinity of weariness she surrendered to it, in 
silence. 

It was cool again, not cold. The coolness moved in waves, as all 
feeling had for a long time, down from her head, through her neck, 
across her breasts and belly, between her legs, under her buttocks. 
Her head ached with a hollow pain. The hollowness kept her sane, for 
it enclosed the pain and made it come to her as from an immense 
distance, through a vacuum. 

Why had the lake emptied itself again? Because I did not love. 
When had she noticed the desiccation, the dryness? At the moment 
of Henry's death, that was the truthful answer. It had taken half 
a year of loneliness after that before she could admit it to herself, and 
that brought her to— now. And what had made the next change, 
which she would never have admitted for another six months, ex- 
cept in the deathlike honesty of this illness? What was it that 
brought once more a sense of life into her existence, as palpable as 
running water to refill the emptied, dried lake? The water was cold 
at first, bitter cold. She shivered at memories of anger— but anger 



101 



meant life; of hate and striving— but with growing energy. Then, 
in the night, the night before the fever, or perhaps it was already 
upon her, the pulsing warm flood, her heart lifting and beating, faster 
and faster, her voice singing in the silence . . . 

A man's head hung in a halo of light very close to her. Rodney 
Savage, his head a foot from hers, his eyes down, his lips slightly 
parted, a look of total absorption on his face. He was dressed, but 
very tired. The halo was a lantern on the table behind him. The 
blurred pink to the left, at the lower limit of her field of vision, was 
her own body, naked. He was sponging her down with a cold, wet 
sponge. The texture of substances became very clear, though distant. 
She was lying on one of the big, rough jail-made towels, near the 
outside edge of the bed. The wooden edge of the bed bit into her 
buttocks. Under the towel she felt the crisscross pattern of the newar 
mattress. 

She whispered, "Do I look as you expected?" 

He went on sponging, but turned his head slightly. "Yes . . . 
better, as a matter of fact. Don't worry. It's only tit for tat, isn't it?" 

She closed her eyes. It was intolerable that he should meet her, ask 
her to take her clothes off, and not even remember her, however 
drunk he had been. That had always annoyed her. And now, when 
he did see her naked, he still did not remember that first time, but 
only the other day, the time when frightened and lonely she had 
come upon that fantastic scene at the temples. Fantastic, and fright- 
eningly wonderful. 

Yes, it was a towel that she lay on. So he must have cleaned her of 
vomit and feces, and taken away the sheets and clothes. She could 
not move her head, but the room smelled of soap and water. 

"How long . . . ?" she whispered. 

"Three, four hours," he said. "It's one o'clock in the morning. 
Roll over now, on your front." His hands helped her, and she lay 
face down, feeling the cool sponge, hearing the tinkle of water as 
he wrung it out over an empty bucket, dipped it again in a full one, 
half- wrung it, put it to her back. "You have a temperature of 104 Vi" 
he said. "What have you got? Here—" she felt his hand slip into hers 
as it lay beside her— "press my finger when I say the right word. 
Typhus? Malaria? Dysentery? Typhoid?" She squeezed his finger in 
her hand. 

"Para," she muttered into the pillow. 



102 



"Paratyphoid? Should I move you at once to Bhowani? I have the 
Bentley. Yes? No?" She squeezed again. 

"No? You're too weak. I'm going to try to keep you warm and 
clean. There ought to be some glucose in the hospital, and I'll find 
that and give it to you. And I can get some milk and boil it. Nothing 
else until you can tell me. Is that right?" 

The last word echoed and repeated in her head . . . right-right- 
right-right, becoming fainter and fainter as her reserve of strength 
faded, rhythmically falling away in the repeated echo. She closed her 
hand tight on his finger and holding onto that drifted out on a 
heaving dark tide of sleep. 

The light hurt her eyes, and someone whistling sounded like a 
shriek in her ears. She moved and the whistling stopped. It was day- 
light. She was wearing a man's pajama coat and nothing else, and 
there were two blankets on the bed. She was sweating heavily. 

"Something to drink," he said. 

She felt the spoon in her mouth, contracted her throat muscles and 
forced herself to swallow, again, again. When she could take no more 
she turned her head and muttered, "Warm chicken broth . . . Pills, 
labeled sulfaguanidine. Twenty at a time." 

She slept. She drank warm chicken broth, and knew from the taste 
that some sulfaguanidine must be ground up in it. Nighttime. She 
slept again. 

She awoke to a hot morning light. He took her temperature, and 
said, "A hundred exactly. Feel able to talk?" 

She said, "I didn't tell the D.C. anything. I never saw you do any- 
thing suspicious, or meet anybody except Mr. Faiz Mohammed once 
or twice, and I didn't think it worth telling them that. Nor about . . . 
the temples." 

He said, "I know you didn't." 

She had to tell him now, while it was clear in her mind and he was 
here. At any moment he might vanish again, as he had come. "Ranjit 
Singh stopped here on his way back the other day. He told me he had 
just given you the order canceling your lease. I hadn't done anything, 
said anything, but I was pleased." She looked at him, but he had his 
back turned to her. He must turn round and see her face; but he did 
not. She had to talk to his back as he went on mixing something in 
a bowl, a degchi of warm milk beside him on the table. "Then that 
evening all the rest of the people here left. Two old women and a 

103 



child left the hospital, though they were sick. Men came and carried 
them away. The sweeper left. The servant here." 

"It was nothing to do with me/' he said, still not turning. 

"Oh, I know, I know— now! There was an effigy . . ." 

"You saw that? I hoped you had not. I cut it down and burned it." 

Then he did turn and come toward her, a mug in his hand. Dark 
pouches lay under his eyes, and a black stubble round his chin and 
jowl. He looked murderous, the pale-blue eyes shining feverishly. 

"You're sick, too," she muttered. 

"Not sick— just tired." 

In the ocean of sleep there had been islands, painful islands. She 
had sat on pots, bones aching, clinging convulsively to something or 
someone. She had vomited, emptied her bowels, felt hot urine on her 
legs, drunk soup. Towels had been changed, and sheets, and blankets. 
Through the window now she could see blankets and towels and 
sheets and pajama coats and shirts and dishcloths hanging on a clothes 
line. He must have washed them. 

He said, when she had greedily finished the broth, suddenly aware 
of violent hunger pains, "Now, should I take you somewhere where 
you can be properly looked after?" 

"Are you going to Delhi?" 

He shook his head impatiently. "I don't know. That's not the ques- 
tion. Where should you go?" 

She turned away. "I'm staying here," she said flatly. "You can 
leave me now. By evening I shall be able to look after myself." 

"All right," he said. "But I shall bring Kunthi and Devi before I go. 
They're two girls from Pattan, and I've already given them some 
first-aid and hygiene training. Their normal profession is whore, but 
they'll look after you as long as you want them to." 

She mumbled, "Thank you," into the pillow. 

"Now can I leave you safely for an hour or so?" 

An hour! When before dark he was going away forever. "Yes," she 
said. 

"I'm off now, then. Go back to sleep." 

"I'm hungry," she said resentfully. Did he have no awareness of 
any of her emotions or feelings? 

"I'm sure you are. But no food now. Go back to sleep." 

Sleep, she muttered, sleep, sleep, sleep. But against her will, she 
did. When she opened her eyes she saw a thin, dark Indian girl, her 

104 



hair drawn tightly back from the high forehead, squatting on the 
floor near the head of the bed, her eyes fixed on her in an intense, 
unwinking stare. She recognized the girl at once as one who had been 
in his aims on the temple platform. 

'What is your name?" she whispered. 

"Kunthi," the girl answered. "He says you are to eat when you 
wake." She stood up. 

"Where is he?" she asked. 

"Asleep," she said over her shoulder as she went out toward the 
kitchen. "I will awaken him." 

"No!" she cried. 

"It is his order," the voice said from the kitchen. 

He did not come in until she had finished eating, and Kunthi had 
taken away the bowl, and also firmly made her change out of his 
pajama coat into one of her own nightdresses. She sat up, pulling 
the sheet higher to her neck. 

"Mind if I smoke a cheroot?" he said. "I'll sit near the window." 

"Oh, please do," she said. "I'd like a cigarette, too." 

He found one of hers, put it in her mouth, and lit it. He puffed 
away at his cheroot. She saw that he had shaved and now looked 
a little less demonically villainous, though just as tired. 

"I must go soon," he said. "I think you'll be all right. Kunthi and 
Devi will see that no harm comes to you. I've told them to tell Faiz 
Mohammed at once if you have a relapse. . . . Don't take that effigy 
too hard, or your people leaving. There are all sorts of rumors flying 
around. The Chambal Army is going to move everyone out and dig 
defenses against India . . . The Indian Army is coming through 
with guns and tanks, blasting everything before them with bombers. 
That's what's caused the flight, more than your excessive Christianity. 
... It did seem excessive to me." 

She said, "I didn't feel very Christian when I lost my temper with 
you . . . when I tried to hate you." 

He said, "You seemed more human to me then. Before, when I 
saw you, from what I heard . . . there seemed to be nothing but 
Christian resignation, turning the other cheek, love thine enemy. A 
saint in a church, palms joined, looking upward, beatific smile on the 
lips. Fixed beatific smiles make a woman look stupid." 

Her heart beat with a pleasant warmth. So he had thought about 
her! Why, oh, why, couldn't he have come earlier, when he was alone 

105 



in Pattan, and discussed all this? 

She said, "I was lonely . . . afraid . . . afraid of India . . . bored 
. . . frustrated. I am not a missionary, I have no real faith, I was 
terrified my husband would find out . . . But I did not want to 
show it. I wanted to stick it out, to do my job to the end, without 
failing. Sometimes . . . sometimes I used to think, lying awake in 
bed at night, that it was all a preparation. Once I told him at least 
that much, and he smiled and said Yes, it was, a preparation for 
heaven. I didn't think so, but I could not say anything." 

He had listened with a sort of curious half-attention, his eyes some- 
times fixed on hers, sometimes wandering round the room, his fingers 
fiddling with the sheet. Now ask me what I really felt, what I thought 
about you, she willed him; talk, talk about us; bring it all out of me; 
the right word, the right look, a touch, will do it. . . . 

He got up listlessly. "It's the times. Something's pushing us out of 
India— rejecting us." 

"Yes!" she cried. "We're in the same boat." 

"We're both being pushed out— you for trying to change old pat- 
terns, me for trying to get back to them ... I must be on my way." 

"Where to?" she asked quickly. "What are you going to do?" 

He said, "I don't know. I only know that they're not going to push 
me out ... I dropped in that evening to return the clothes you lent 
me. Your husband's, I suppose? Also to tell you that you'd won, 
here." 

"No, no!" she cried. 

"I also meant to tell you I didn't think you'd find your victory very 
real. Then I saw the effigy, and I knew I wouldn't have to say any- 
thing. Except good-by . . . We didn't really affect each other at all. 
We just thought so, but really it was events, and times, which caught 
us both up and threw us against each other. There's no need for us 
to part as enemies." 

She looked at him and said, "I am not your enemy. The opposite." 

"I'm sorry," he said simply, and there was no way of knowing 
whether he understood but did not care, and was sorry; or did not 
understand, and was sorry; and no clear understanding, in her ex- 
hausted calm, of which of the two would be worse. 

"Devi!" he called. 

Another girl came in, the curvaceous one who had fallen down 
dead drunk on the platform. Margaret could see her now, more clearly 

106 



than her smiling, clothed presence— her firm full breasts pointing to 
the sky, the legs parted, a beatific smile on her face, and every finished 
curve speaking of a woman's fulfillment. 

Rodney spoke to her and she walked, hips swinging, into the other 
room, and came out with a bedding roll on her head. Rodney fol- 
lowed, returning with a suitcase. 

"Your pa jama coats!" she cried. "I saw two on the line. ... It 
must be lunchtime. You must have something to eat." 

But he shook his head, and Kunthi came in with the pajamas and 
in a trice they were packed away in the suitcase. 

"Good-by," he said. 

"Good-by," she said. "And— and thank you." The door closed be- 
hind him and she whispered, "With all my heart . . . Oh, God, oh, 
God," and sank her head into the pillow. 



107 



Ckapter 8 



"Rodney!" 

Fd heard that call twenty, thirty times the past few days, since 
arriving in Delhi. I couldn't walk in the street, have a drink at a bar, 
swim at the club pool, without a voice calling me. This time I was 
walking down the long corridor on the ground floor of the Imperial, 
and it was Max. He was wearing uniform and looked fit, burly, and 
businesslike. I had decided, long since, that he had learned about my 
love for Janaki, and had— sensibly and typically— realized that it had 
hurt me a great deal more than it could hurt him. 

"What are you doing here?" he asked. 

"Robbing a bank," I said. 

Max laughed. The usual conversation followed: Where was I 
staying? Good heavens, that flea pit! (I was staying at a small hotel 
in Old Delhi.) I must go and live with his cousin Hari. That, too, was 
as usual. Everyone invited me to stay, but I always refused. My old 
room was ready for me in John Clayton's bungalow, but I did not 
want to go there. Not that it would have been "awkward." The busi- 
ness with Frances was over and she knew it. She had already got a 

108 



passage home about a month hence. 

For politeness' sake I should have asked Max what he was doing in 
Delhi, knowing that his division was in Bhowani, but I didn't want 
to continue the conversation. Besides, I knew. Obviously he had been 
called up to discuss the increasing tension between India and Cham- 
bal. If India decided to deal with Chambal by force, Max was going 
to be the bullyboy. 

"I've got to go," he said finally, with a rather unconvincing look 
at his watch. He summoned up his courage. "And, Rodney, old boy, 
you know, if there's anything I can do ... I have lots of friends— 
Daulat, Rikhye, P. R. Sethi-" 

"Don't worry, Max," I said, "I'll come round with my hat in my 
hand before I have to sell the Bentley." That was a lie, but what else 
could you say to a man like Max? 

We parted and I went on out into the street and walked aimlessly 
toward Connaught Circus. It was hot then, at the very end of March, 
and I was not wearing a hat. Out in the bustle of the crowd, the clop 
of tonga pony hoofs and the rustle and murmur of people in my ears, 
dust rising by the hawkers' stalls, students lolling in the shade on the 
grass under the trees, bicycles ebbing to and fro like schools of fish 
... I slipped back into the chain of thought which Max had inter- 
rupted—the morass of thought would be a better notion. 

From the beginning, when the D.C. came to throw me out of 
Pattan, there had been interruptions, like finding Margaret Wood ill 
and alone at the mission, and, since then, these chance meetings. I 
could not decide whether the interruptions prevented me from achiev- 
ing an orderly thought sequence, which would solve my problems, or 
mercifully yanked me out of a futile nose-chasing-tail hypnosis. 

In the foreground, when I trod water in my swamp, all I could see 
was debt. John Clayton had put a lot of money into the hunting 
camp, and so had Frances. It had gone— not through my fault, but 
all the same it had gone, and I felt I owed it back. I had also lost all 
but a small amount of my own savings, and now had less than 300 
rupees in the world, plus my pension. I wasn't going to starve, but 
neither was I going to be able to repay my debts. 

So— I must get a job. Here I could feel my teeth gritting together, 
and a voiceless repetition of the words In India. Daulat, Rikhye, and 
P. R. Sethi, whom Max mentioned, were industrialists, owners of 
banks, airlines, cotton mills, God knows what else. P. R. Sethi was, 

109 



in addition, a hell of a good man. Any of them, plus half a dozen 
others I could think of, would give me a good job, and were powerful 
enough, and independent enough, to tell L. P. Roy to go to hell if he 
tried to prevent it. 

Also, I wanted to meet Sumitra again. 

Here all forward progress stopped, and the heavy mud of the morass 
began to rise about my hips and waist, clasping and dragging. Try as 
I might, I could think of no job that I would accept. No job that I 
would be offered, that is. There were plenty that I would not be 
offered. For instance, I had already heard whispers of trouble between 
the new government and the Assam hill tribes, especially the Nagas. 
I saw the Nagas' point of view, and I saw the government's. I knew 
the Nagas— fought with them in the war— was an honorary Naga 
myself. If the government made me Special Commissioner for the 
Hill Tribes, and promised fifty years to me and my successors to bring 
the tribes into their new India— I'd go like a shot. But it was part of 
the problem that such a job had to be done by an Indian. It would 
make no difference if I crossed over into Pakistan, except that I could 
claim Pakistan citizenship by birth, having been born in Lahore. 
Even so, they would definitely not send me to Gilgit, Chitral, Waziris- 
tan, or any of the places where I wanted to be and where I could have 
done a good job. In brief, I didn't want what I could get and couldn't 
get what I wanted— and needed. 

So, back to the money. ... By now I must have been round this 
circle 750 times. I wondered occasionally what Margaret Wood 
thought of me, when she recovered sufficiently to be aware that I was 
there. What I had to do in that forlorn bungalow I did in a trance. 
She was filthy, and I had to undress and wash her, many times. I don't 
suppose any man has ever had such a good-looking body under his 
hand and been so little aware of it. I remember briefly wishing it were 
Sumitra, that's all. I remember leaving with my suitcase, and I know 
she was saying something, but I have no idea what. I only hoped I 
hadn't been rude to her, unintentionally. She seemed a good, brave 
woman now that our troubles had got us below the squabbling level, 
and I didn't want to leave any bitterness. 

So, back to the money. ... I saw that I was passing the Con- 
naught Circus office of the Bombay-China Bank. I had told Max I 
was here to rob a bank. Well, why not? I had been thinking like a 
sahib. All the jobs I wanted, the jobs that no one would give me, were 

110 



sahibs' jobs. Such jobs had been created out of nothing by the 
British Raj. The Indians and Pakistanis were taking them over, using 
their own sahibs for the purpose— and we had created them, too. 

There was no place for the English sahib, then. All right. Go back 
behind the day of the sahib, and what did you get? Merchant ad- 
venturers, soldiers of fortune, wandering mechanics . . . men who 
provided India with what it needed, or thought it needed, without 
any missionary or evangelical purpose. Translate that into today's con- 
ditions . . . There was a shortage of lipstick, whisky, perfume, the 
luxuries which Indians crave as much as anyone else. Cars, big 
American cars, high-priced shotguns and rifles, cartridges. Wireless 
sets, ornate radiograms. There were laws against the importation of 
all these things, or heavy import duties. There were currency restric- 
tions—but if you knew the right people you could easily get round 
all that, what with Portuguese territory touching India in Goa, bits 
of Pakistan to east and west, cordial dislike between all three nations, 
and not enough troops or police to guard the long borders. That was 
the sort of thing my ancestors would have been in, up to their necks. 
I could just see them, in wigs and heavy with sweat, working it all out 
in a back room off Chowringhee with a couple of tough, smoothly 
obsequious Bengali moneylenders to provide the initial working 
capital. 

I found myself passing the Bombay-China Bank again. I needed 
working capital, first to pay off my debts, secondly to start this or any 
other venture of my own. I did not know any moneylenders and did 
not want to have them exercise any control over me. Inside the bank 
the British manager sat in the far corner, at a big desk of his own. 
Two Indian clerks worked at the counter and three at tables behind. 
Outside the door the bank guard sat on a stool, a shotgun in hand 
and a kukri hung in a red sash over one shoulder. He was a Gurkha. 
Obviously a pensioner, probably a naik, I thought from his appear- 
ance and manner. Not one of ours though, at least not during my 
service. 

I walked on. It was a large step, to think of robbing a bank, though 
I did gamble with ' 'borrowed" money once, to help Max— Janaki, 
I should say. But, as I strode on, heedless of the sun burning down on 
my head and the crowds around me, I felt a distinct lightening. The 
morass seemed to be less gluey. This was not a sahib's thing to do. I 
would at least get rid of that damned albatross, which had been hang- 



111 



ing round my family's neck for about a hundred and fifty years now. 

Ratanbir, I thought. Ratanbir can make part of the reconnaissance. 
I can make the rest. I might rob the Bombay-China Bank, or I might 
not, but if I did I was going to do it properly, when it had a lot of 
money on hand, and get away without a trace, and have some means 
of converting the money, much of which would be traceable. 

I hailed a tonga, and jolting along in the back, my mind working 
fast and constructively, drove to old Delhi and my hotel, which was 
near the main railway station. I found Ratanbir polishing my shoes, 
though they were as bright as day already. I told him to go to New 
Delhi and make friends with the guards at the Bombay-China Bank. 
I gave him twenty rupees, and he saluted and went out. I looked at 
the closed door behind him, and thought, Max would not approve of 
this: rob a bank, all right, a chap might have to do that, but involve 
a soldier! Fine, Max, but you're still a sahib. You can afford to be; 
I can't. 

I went down to the little bar and ordered a whisky and soda, then 
another. 

"Colonel Savage?" 

I just managed to repress a groan. I raised my head and turned. It 
was a slender middle-aged Indian, slightly bent, with thin, graying 
hair and a long crooked nose. He was wearing well-cut European 
clothes. He said, "Forgive the impertinence," and passed me a card. 
It read, Mr. Hussein Ali, and underneath, Chambali Industries Ltd. 
I handed the card back. 

He said in a low voice, "I wonder if we could talk in your room, 
colonel?" 

The barman was out somewhere and I thought, what the hell. We 
went up to my room on the second floor. 

Mr. Hussein walked to the little balcony and peered out right and 
left. He tapped the walls. I watched, smiling. I love cloak-and-dagger 
stuff. He saw me, and smiled himself, rather charmingly. "Silly," he 
said, "but one is a fool to omit small precautions." He spoke with 
almost no accent. I had heard of him of course. He was an Ismaili, 
one of the Aga Khan's sect of Muslims. The family had gone to 
Zanzibar about fifty years earlier and made a fortune. Just before the 
war they returned to their homeland, which happened to be the 
State of Chambal, and now they owned practically every industry in 
the State— less the compulsory 1 5 per cent share that belonged to the 
Nawab. 



112 



I indicated a chair, and myself sat on the edge of the bed. He said, 
"I have come to offer you a position, colonel." 

I said, "I'm afraid . . ." 

He raised one hand. "Not an ordinary position, or there would be 
no need for these precautions. I showed you my business card just 
now. I am also a member of His Highness's Wizarat." 

A Wizarat is the cabinet of a Muslim maharajah. (Muslim princes, 
by the way, are never called maharajah— always Nawab, Mir, Amir, 
or the like.) It was no surprise to learn that the richest man in 
Chambal, and its chief industrialist, had an official position with the 
Nawab's government. 

He said, "In business I can offer you a great deal of money, colonel, 
because I am sure that with your talents you will earn it. But I am also 
sure you have been offered that by many others. I am not here to 
offer you money— but a task, for India." 

"For India?" I said, raising an eyebrow. 

Hussein Ali said, "Yes— for the India that still lives, and strives to 
find expression under this mean-spirited Congress rule. For the India 
of splendor, of great men, of heroes, if I do not embarrass your Eng- 
lish reserve ... I understand that the Indian Government expelled 
you from the Pattan Reserved Forest and ruined your most interesting 
enterprise, on suspicion that you were acting as a secret agent for us?" 

I nodded. It was not quite accurate, but it was near enough. 

He said, "We wish to prove the Indians right, though there will 
be no secrecy about it. I am authorized to offer you a post as an agent 
of the Wizarat. Officially we would employ you as a brigadier, and 
you would have advisory duties with our armed forces— very real and 
important duties, I should add. Your military salary will be two 
thousand rupees a month. In your other capacity you will receive 
ten thousand rupees a month, with a suitable house, servants, et- 
cetera." 

"What makes you think I am worth that much?" I asked. I have a 
high opinion of myself, but this was flying pretty high. 

"First, our own observation," he said. "Second, your attitude and 
background as—" 

"A sahib," I said. 

"Precisely. I can see that you now reject the word. Naturally, I have 
resented the idea, too . . . but you cannot in a moment undo what 
your predecessors have done. Whether you like it or not, you com- 
mand respect, for you have conquered and ruled us. You have a repu- 

113 



tation for impartiality, incorruptibility— and decision. . . . Third, we 
have the opinion of Mr. Huntington Blauvelt." 

"My God!" I said. Blauvelt, the Wandering Minstrel, was affecting 
my life more than any one of a dozen people who were earnestly 
trying to. 

Hussein nodded. "Yes, Mr. Blauvelt, who is at this moment visiting 
the State as a guest of His Highness. Mr. Blauvelt has certain— prob- 
lems, but he is a singularly acute observer, even when apparently in 
no condition to observe anything." 

"All right," I said. "Now tell me, what are you trying to do, in the 
State? And what is my job to be?" 

He started at once to tell me, and I made an approving note. He 
had had the sense to realize that he must make up his mind about my 
reliability before approaching me at all. It would be no good hem- 
ming and hawing and fencing once he reached me. 

"His Highness is determined to maintain Chambal's independence 
from both India and Pakistan," he said. 

All right, I thought. With luck, he might just manage it. Hydera- 
bad, a slightly larger state, had tried, and Nehru had sent in the 
Indian Army. Two days— no Hyderabad. But Chambal had the enor- 
mous advantage of touching Pakistan as well as India, and so could 
not be treated quite so cavalierly, besides giving the Nawab the 
chance to play the two big nations off against each other. 

"We are determined," Hussein continued, "to maintain the old 
values of India. Most of our people are Rajputs and Jats, as you know. 
They reject the sickly Hinduism of Bengal. They reject Congress 
demagoguery. They are warriors. Three centuries ago they took the 
oath of allegiance to His Highness's ancestor, and they are deter- 
mined to uphold it. His Highness, for his part, while remaining a 
devout Muslim himself, rejects the intolerant spirit of Pakistan. There 
has never been any penalization of Hindus in Chambal, and there 
never will be." 

"There'd better not be," I said. Rajputs and Jats were not people 
who took kindly to oppression. 

"We reject democracy, bureaucracy, socialism, and communism," 
Hussein said. "Chambal has always been ruled by a sovereign, re- 
spectfully advised by the Wizarat. Under that rule there has been 
peace and plenty, and as much freedom as a reasonable man might 
ask. If a man wants to have a say in our government, let him rise by 



11. 



his own efforts until he sits in the seats of power— as Faiz Mohammed 
rose, from a butcher's son, to be Subadar of Lapri— and as a score of 
others so rose, whom I can name. If a man has not that ability, let 
him keep his mouth shut, till his soil, and obey the orders of those 
who have proved themselves his betters. . . . We will advance ma- 
terially, but through the enterprise of our own leaders, not on the 
plans of clerks sitting in Delhi— or Karachi." 

And you, doubtless, will make your tenth or twentieth million, 
pounds sterling, I thought. That did not bother me. I knew a good 
deal about Chambali Industries Ltd. Yes, they made money— but it 
all went back into new enterprises, certainly as well chosen as any 
government could do, and backed by a single man's drive and deter- 
mination. 

"That is what we are going to achieve," Hussein said. "We have a 
hard struggle ahead of us. You will have heard of our preparations to 
put our case to the United Nations, if need be. Other political and 
financial arrangements I will not bother you with now, though you 
will have to learn about them in due course. One political matter, 
though, will fall in your province— that is, the winning of the un- 
committed states of Bandelkhand to our side. Their rulers all have 
the same point of view as His Highness. They too wish to preserve a 
way of life more suited to India than this cheap democracy. If they 
allow India to absorb them, not only will they themselves become 
landless paupers but their kingdoms will vanish, losing the identity 
of a thousand years— sometimes much more, as with Konpara— to 
become so much more raw material for Nehru's socialist experiments. 
. . . We believe you can exert great influence on the ruler of Kishan- 
pur at least, perhaps also the Rajah of Konpara, through your family 
connections and your own personality. We want you to persuade 
them to join Chambal." 

"Why should they?" I asked. 

Hussein stretched out his hands, turning them palms upward in a 
very Indian gesture, which I was pleased and reassured to see. He was, 
otherwise, so cosmopolitan, so much the international financier, that 
he could have been a Rothschild or a Morgan or a Baring, discussing 
some steel merger in Belgium. He said, "In Chambal we already have 
twelve rajahs happy to admit the Nawab's suzerainty, and all those 
twelve and their ancestors have ruled their lands without interference 
for a long time, subject only to the orders of His Highness on matters 



hi 



of common concern. ... I think it should not be hard to persuade 
Dip Rao Rawan that it is better to become the thirteenth rajah, than 
to disappear totally." 

I agreed, while thinking privately that those small states like 
Kishanpur and Konpara were probably expendable, in the Chambal 
view. If they could be persuaded to join Chambal, or to try to do so, 
the Indian Government would certainly not permit them; but it 
would have to turn its efforts to bringing them back into the fold and 
would find it hard to deal with Chambal at the same time. Of course, 
if the mergers could be managed, so much the better. ... If I had 
to deal with Kishanpur, I would meet Sumitra. 

Hussein stood up. "I have nothing more to say, colonel. I shall leave 
you to think it over, and would ask for a reply within forty-eight 
hours. I am at Chambal House, in New Delhi." 

He looked straight at me, and the small, piercing-dark eyes almost 
glittered. "I think you are a man who has an ideal for this country, as 
I have. I am offering you a post as important for the future as any you 
have ever had in the past. Work of value to the spirit. Something you 
can fight for. And afterward, when we have achieved our independ- 
ence, there will be a secure place for you, and even higher rewards— in 
business or government, as you wish. We shall need you." 

He went out. I had controlled my feelings during his stay, but now 
I let them go. The first thing I noticed was that the morass had 
vanished. My legs were free. Then my eyes were focused. I had some- 
thing to do, somewhere to go. Then, my heart was warm— someone 
needed me. Then, I felt a thrill of satisfied revenge. The bloody In- 
dians had harried me from pillar to post, thinking I was helpless and 
harmless. They would regret it. 

I stood up, and exhilaration flowed in, replacing all other emotions. 
I thought of what was to be achieved. Was this not precisely the sum 
of my thoughts that dreadful day at the Pattan Rest House when I 
asked myself what we had done, to destroy the old India which my 
ancestors had found, and hand it over to the worst sort of mediocrity? 
I was being given a chance to start again, to create and preserve in- 
stead of destroy. 

After a few minutes I came back to the actual question, almost as 
an afterthought. There was no doubt in my mind at all. I would take 
the task and do all that I could to make Chambal free, independent, 
and, above all, Indian. And I would meet Sumitra. 

116 



I was fast asleep when Ratanbir returned at midnight, drunk. He 
stood wavering and teetering and saluting, telling me that he had got 
to know the bank guards. The man on duty during the evening was 
a Burathoki, the same subtribe as himself; they were even distantly 
related; and he had been a naik in the 8th Gurkhas. "He's an honest 
man/' he said, belching, "but he drinks . . . weak head. It won't be 
difficult." 

I told him to go to bed. Perhaps I should have told him I'd never 
meant to rob the bank, that such an idea was degrading for both of 
us— but I was too tired and too involved in other thoughts, and I 
didn't. 

The next day at one I went to Chambal House. After a short wait 
I was ushered up a flight of carpeted stairs, along a tiled passage, and 
into Hussein Ali's expensively simple suite. I told him I would accept 
his offer. He said, "Good," and, opening a drawer, handed me a long 
envelope, marked "Brigadier Savage, expenses (not accountable)." He 
said, "Please report to me in Chambalpur within the week." 

I said, "O.K.," and that was that. One thousand rupees. 

I took a tonga to the Imperial and sat down to lunch. Before I was 
through the first course the khidmatgar handed me a note. I looked up 
quickly. "Who gave you this?" 

"A man," he said, "a desi admi—a native. He went away." 

I opened the envelope, which was properly addressed to me, includ- 
ing my decorations. The note inside read, "Be so good as to call on 
me in my office, Secretariat Buildings, any time after three o'clock 
this afternoon. L. P. Roy." 

I finished my lunch, chewing carefully and trying to avoid exces- 
sive thought. I might be able to work out what L. P. Roy wanted of 
me, then again I might not. I might reach a conclusion, but find later 
that it was quite wrong. It is better to have a blank mind than a mind 
full of misconceptions. 

After lunch I read the Statesman and then set out for the Secre- 
tariat. A chuprassy told me that Roy Sahib's office was close to Sardar 
Patel's. A few minutes later I was announced. 

Roy's office was not large and what with piles of books and papers, 
another visitor sitting in a cane chair across the table from him, and 
a secretary bending over Roy's shoulder, it seemed crowded. Roy said 
politely, "Be so good as to wait one moment, please, colonel." I sat 
down on another chair, in the only corner free from furniture, reflect- 

117 



ing how universally and truly Eastern is the custom of doing business 
in public. 

They talked in the wonderful and fantastic mixture of Hindi, 
Urdu, and English which had already become the lingua franca of 
bureaucratic India. The subject was some mines that had been 
willed by one petty (and deposed) rajah to another. I listened with 
joy to such remarks as "Lekin yeh joint royalties aur overriding com- 
mission ke arrangement hai 7 and "Agar Ram Singh apne collateral 
descendants ke lie life interest dena chahta" and "Legal aspect bilkul 
clear hai, magar . . ." 

Roy finished his business with dispatch, and when he gave the 
decision there was no argument. A moment later we were alone, and 
Roy got up and closed the door. He was wearing the same clothes he 
had worn in the Red Fort, the clothes he wore, as far as I knew, all 
day and every day— a spotlessly white dhoti and shirt, bare feet 
tucked into sandals. His square face somehow managed, without the 
Gandhi cap, to look lean and ascetic, and his mop of gray hair stood 
out like a halo from his head. 

He said, "I have a short temper, which I cannot control. It is a 
grievous fault. I apologize for my words when we last met, near the 
Moti Masjid." 

"I was equally at fault," I said, "my mind was elsewhere/ 7 

He nodded. "Good ... I have, naturally, held a prejudice against 
you because you killed my brother. But I am told by many whose 
judgment I trust that you are, in your way, a friend of India." 

I said, "Of India? Yes, I think so." 

He said, "You must not take the appointment you have been 
offered in Chambal, whatever it is." 

"Why?" 

"It would be wrong. How could you then be a friend of India?" 

"Perhaps not a friend of your government, or of Mr. Patel's plans." 

"An enemy of ours is an enemy of India," Roy said. 

I began to feel that peculiar throbbing behind the temples, with 
a tightening of the chest, which my ancestors must have experienced 
when they first came to grips with the Brahmin mentality: the calm 
arrogance; the cold contempt for anyone else's opinions; the belief 
that the Brahmin is in direct communion with God, is in fact a part 
of God, and can do no wrong. It was fortunate that in those early 
meetings the Brahmins came across perhaps the only other people 

118 



in the world with the same colossal self-conceit and set in much the 
same terms. Of course Roy was not technically a Brahmin— but that 
did not matter. The attitude had been inherited by the new rulers 
of India. 

I controlled myself, and said, "That is a matter of opinion." 

"Not a bit of it," he said. "There can be no matter of opinion about 
it. The so-called princely states are a part of India— like Goa and the 
Portuguese colonies— and we are going to have them." 

"Regardless of what the people concerned say or feel?" 

"They are ignorant," he said. "Some have been oppressed, some 
misled, all exploited. ... I believe Dip Rao, Rajah of Kishanpur, is 
a friend of yours?" 

I nodded. 

"I imagine that your new employers, if you are misguided enough 
to go to them, will use you to try to influence the Rajah's future 
course of action. I should advise you, if you really are a friend of his, 
that we will treat any collusion between him and Chambal as treason 
on his part and will punish him accordingly." 

"Treason!" I burst out. "How can a sovereign ruler commit treason? 
Until 1947 Dip and all the other rajahs acknowledged England as the 
Paramount Power and surrendered to it all rights in foreign affairs 
and defense. But we— England— abrogated paramountcy when we 
left, and told the states they were free to work out their own relation- 
ships with the new Government of India— as sovereign entities." 

"We shall regard it as treason if any ruler acts against the best in- 
terests of his people— and that means any action which does not 
guide the people back to the arms of free, independent Mother 
India." 

"Oh yeah?" I snapped. "You think that Hari Singh did the right 
thing then, in handing over to India a people 90 per cent Muslim, 
who would certainly have wanted to join Pakistan— and still would— 
if you allowed a free vote?" 

"Certainly. Besides, he was a sovereign ruler and had the constitu- 
tional right to do as he wished. We merely accepted his decision." 

"But the Maharajah of Junagadh wasn't a sovereign ruler when he 
tried to join Pakistan and you sent the army in? And the Nizam of 
Hyderabad wasn't when he wanted to be independent?" 

"They were wrong, and wicked," Roy said. "They were enemies of 
India." 

119 



"How's your nonviolence going these days?" I asked. 

"We shall never resort to violence to resolve our problems," he said. 
"It is the sacred teaching of the Mahatma, often repeated by 
Panditji." 

"Kashmir and Hyderabad were fought with feather dusters, then?" 

"They were in the wrong. They were the aggressors." 

"You mean, your bottomless patience was exhausted?" 

"Yes— precisely." 

"I wonder where I've heard that phrase before? . . . You don't 
agree, perhaps, that aggression might be a matter of opinion, subject 
even to evidence, factual evidence?" 

He waved his hand. "That's a waste of time. We are a peaceful 
state, therefore how can we commit aggression?" 

I longed to possess, for just half an hour, the power my ancestors 
had used to solve just such impasses as this. . . . There was the 
Brahmin found with the dead body in his courtyard and a knife in his 
hand. Yes, I killed him. That's murder, then. Oh, no, because, you 
see, I am a Brahmin; murder is wrong, but Brahmins can do no wrong, 
therefore I cannot commit murder, and if I cannot, obviously I have 
not. Then how did this man here die? It was the course of events. 
I see; well, I'll tell you, the course of events now is that you're going 
to die, too. . . . And in marches a squad of soldiers, the gallows are 
set up, and amid anguished wails and howls and the thunderstruck 
disbelief of the populace, the Brahmin is hanged. 

But I did not possess the power. The attitude with which I was now 
faced, the strong belief in its own total virtue, was the attitude of the 
new India, and it— not I— had that power. 

Roy said, "You interest me. Tell me, why do you wish to serve the 
Nawab of Chambal, who, as you must know, is a bigoted and sus- 
picious despot?" 

Just so must old William, my great-great-grandfather, have sent 
for the other Brahmins, after he'd shown he could hang one of them 
just as easily as the next man, and said, "Tell me now, what makes 
you tick?" And just so, after days and years and centuries, would 
there stand an opaque wall between true understandings, however 
clear the paintings each of us put on the surface of the wall, in an 
attempt to communicate. 

I said, "These states are in many ways anachronisms. I do not think 
that any one man ought to have the powers and privileges of the 

120 



rajahs, unless they have been freely voted to him. It is wrong that the 
people should have no say in their own government—" 

"You were not saying that very loudly a few years ago, here/' Roy 
interrupted. 

"Who's sitting behind that desk— you or I? ... It is also wrong 
that in a huge country like this, with so many different ways of 
thought, so many religions, so many backgrounds, so many manners 
of living, that one party, one group, one viewpoint, should impose 
itself on the rest by force. The Nawab of Chambal, for all his faults, 
wants to make a country which is antisocialist, more individual, more 
closely linked with the past, with tradition, than you believe in. I be- 
lieve he has the right to do so, and I'm going to help all I can . . . 
because I believe in that sort of India, too." 

Roy's face grew suddenly red with anger. "You wish to preserve 
your economic strangle hold!" he shouted. "Economic imperialism! 
You wish to preserve an India subject to your exploitation. You will 
sell Chambal anything— guns, airplanes, whisky, big American cars, 
stupid luxuries . . ." 

"And are those, any of them, un-Indian?" I asked. 

"Yes," he shouted. "They are wrong, wicked. Gross materialism 
. . . exploitation of baser nature . . ." 

I let him rave on. Like several other prominent Indian politicians, 
he was a fanatic. When any of them climbed onto his pet hobby 
horse, whatever it happened to be— whisky, spinning wheels, the 
wonder of the Hindi language, economic exploitation— it was impos- 
sible to talk to them— as impossible as to talk to the sort of English- 
man who claimed that the course of history showed God's guiding 
hand over England's destiny; or, more accurately, the sort of German 
who yelled that all his country's troubles were due to the Treaty of 
Versailles. 

When he ran out of breath I stood up and said, "If that will be all, 
sahib, perhaps you will permit me to take my leave." 

"Sit down, sit down," he said. He did not make any apology for his 
outburst. How could he? He was in the right. He sat very still at his 
desk, looking at me out of his hot, black eyes. He had a great capacity 
for stillness. He began to speak, slowly. "I am sorry for you, Savage 
. . . You are ready to fight for your ideals. But it is not human beings 
that you will be fighting against. It is a great river called History. This 
river sweeps away all who struggle against it. Nor can anyone stand 

121 



aside, in neutrality, and hope to let it pass undisturbed, because it 
undermines the foundations and causes the silent collapse of the 
place on which he stands. By its existence it changes the climate of 
the time, causing orchards to grow where there was desert, putting 
a blight on groves where there used to be palaces." 

"True," I said softly, for I felt close to Roy at that moment, "but 
it is not necessary for those riding the crest of the river, downstream, 
to don garments of unctuous virtue, still less necessary for them to 
crow over the flood's senseless destruction of much that is beautiful 
and valuable." 

"It is\" Roy said. "Cast your mind back a couple of centuries. Did 
your ancestors, when they overthrew the old India, wail and beat 
their breasts? Did they not proclaim, rather, the merit and rightness, 
even invoking God's will, of what they were doing?" 

I nodded. It was a good point. I said, "You are probably right . . . 
But you agree, then, that at that time you were the ones trying to 
fight against the river?" 

"Yes." 

"And did that knowledge stop you from fighting?" 

"No." 

"So?" 

"Ah. Perhaps those people did not recognize the course of history. 
They were, after all, ignorant of the world outside India. You are in 
a different position. . . . Do you know how I would look for the 
course of history, these days? I would think of you, someone like 
you. You have been floating down on the current, now I notice that 
you are swimming upstream. Your ideals have not changed, nor has 
the course of events changed, yet their relation to each other has 
changed. This is very strange, and only your Einstein or our mystical 
sages can explain it. Yet one thing is sure, and I feel it in my bones— 
that you are doomed, like the Flying Dutchman, to swim and sail 
against overpowering headwinds and currents. So— I can be sure my 
course is correct if I merely go in the opposite direction from you, eh?" 

I said, "I see. You remind me of a story— by Somerset Maugham, 
I think— about a naval officer who gets into desperate financial 
trouble and goes to Monte Carlo, to an old man whose life he had 
once saved. This old man was always amazingly successful at the 
gaming tables and the officer begged him to tell him his system. The 
old man offered to give him whatever he needed, but the officer's 

122 



pride wouldn't accept that, he only asked for the system so that he 
could win for himself. The old man said the system would do him 
no good, but the officer kept pressing and pleading, until finally the 
old man said. 'My system is simple. I bet against those who must 
win. They never do.' " 

Roy stood up. "I am the old man, Savage. I am offering you the 
equivalent of the money. Do not let your pride refuse it." 

I was standing, too. "I'm sorry. I don't agree that history has a 
course of its own. I think it is influenced by men who are not afraid 
of it. I don't believe in systems, either. Sometimes you win, some- 
times you lose— but you've got to play." 

Roy's voice became hard. "Very well. Do not expect any preferen- 
tial treatment when the time comes to settle the Chambal affair. 
You will pay the full price for whatever you have staked." 

I said, "That will be the lot, sahib. The whole lot." 



12t 



Cliapter 9 



Three months to the day after I reached Chambalpur I was sitting in 
my office one morning, wondering what to do next. Wondering is 
too serene a word, since it gives a picture of a man sitting back in 
calm debate with himself. It was never like that in Chambal. I had 
no one job but was involved in everything. I had been imported to 
bring to Chambal the sahib's direct approach, executive efficiency, 
the sense of what is to be done and then the going out and doing it. 
But the affairs of Chambal were run on the system of the Arabian 
Nights, with one grand wazir receiving one set of orders, and another 
another, and both knowing that they were really supposed to do 
something else entirely. Above all, the ruling principle of government 
in Chambal was not justice, or right, or even autocracy— it was sus- 
picion. Everyone was suspicious of everyone else, and, usually, with 
good reason. 

There was excessive secrecy. The atmosphere was heavy with mis- 
trust and intrigue. Whispered rumors flew around: X is in secret 
touch with India. Y is ready to turn his private troops against the 
Nawab. Z is sending money out to Swiss banks under an assumed 

124 



name. Everyone was an amateur spy— except when they were profes- 
sional. I was trusted, but not therefore liked or followed. There were 
intrigues against me by officers who suspected that I was responsible 
for having them removed from important posts. There were financiers 
who wanted to nullify my influence in the awarding of military con- 
tracts, so that they could deal more amicably with someone else. 
I was permanently in a bad temper, curt and ruder than I needed to 
be, because I felt that the air was tainted by noxious gases. 

So when I said that I sat wondering, what I mean is that I sat and 
glared at the wall map, while angry thoughts crowded for preference 
in my mind. If A didn't report soon that he had paid the guerrillas 
now being trained in the north, I would go and shoot him. But it was 
more urgent to see that the mechanical engineers were actually in- 
stalling the new machine tools in the tank repair shops and not 
selling them to factories in the city. But it was more urgent still to 
see that B was fired at once from command of his brigade as he was 
a hopeless alcoholic; but to achieve that I would have to put him into 
a position where he would insult either the corps commander or the 
commander in chief— or, of course, the Nawab. They already knew 
he was inefficient, but that was not enough, not in Chambal. It had 
to be an insult, and B was too easygoing to become rude, even when 
boiled as an owl. 

I had expected to be employed in negotiations with Kishanpur, 
but so far that had not been mentioned and after the first week or two 
I understood why. They did not trust me yet. My office was in Army 
Headquarters and a wooden plate on the door announced in gold-leaf 
letters, in English and Urdu, that I was Brigadier R. Savage, Assistant 
Military Secretary to His Highness the Nawab. I had a babu clerk, a 
telephone, a typewriter, and a water chatty in the comer. A few doors 
down the passage was the office of the commander in chief, General 
Prince Afif Khan Bokhari, a cousin of the Nawab. He was a dear old 
boy, seventy-eight years old. 

Just as I had decided to take a trip to Digra and have a look at the 
port defenses, an agitated chuprassy in full dress gold and green 
dashed in. "Sahib," he said breathlessly, "His Highness is waiting." 

"Where?" 

"Outside, in the car." 

I hurried down the stairs, in and out of courtyards full of dozing 
servants and sweeper women. I had a telephone, and His Highness 

* 2 5 



could have indicated his intentions well in advance; but that wasn't 
the way things were done in Chambal. 

Sir Mohammed Akbar Bokhari, G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., etc., 
Nawab of Chambal, was sitting bolt upright in the back seat of one 
of the twelve State Rolls-Royces, a vast Phantom III drophead 
coupe" with gold fittings, the top down, and a liveried chauffeur at 
the wheel. I got in. His Highness was sixty-five, clean shaven, gaunt, 
pale brown. Still, after four hundred years you could detect a faint 
trace of the Mongolian fold in the corners of his eyes. His family had 
come from Bokhara in Central Asia with Baber, the first Mogul 
emperor, hence the family name, Bokhari. He wore pince-nez and was 
a simple man, in that he knew what he wanted: he wanted to keep all 
real power in his own hands. He was wearing, as usual, tight trousers, 
slippers with tumed-up toes, a plain back achkhan reaching down 
to his knees and buttoned up to a high collar, with two jeweled stars 
on the left breast, the Order of the Bath and the Order of Chambal. 

We drove off without a word. Chambalpur was a complete epitome 
of India, in romance, in fable, and in actuality. The old city stood 
around a mile-square lake. The Nawab's rose-red palace soared sheer 
from the water on one side, hanging like a vivid dream against the 
blue sky and the sharply etched backdrop of sand-colored hills. Other 
palaces and mansions surrounded the lake— among them Army Head- 
quarters, which was mid- Victorian icing cake. On the other side of 
the lake an inordinately ugly factory belched foul-smelling smoke from 
three tall tin chimneys. In the city there were narrow alleys where 
time seemed to have stood still for ten centuries, and others, nearby, 
where the squalor was not patriarchal but modern. And there were 
real slums, and tin cans piled in the offal dumps, and chemicals 
running down the open sewers from hidden shops and factories. 

We passed under one of the immense city gates, with hardly room 
to squeeze through; and on among the jumble of shacks that had 
long since spread outside the walls. Near the point where the shacks 
finally died away and the empty semidesert spread out in front of us, 
the Nawab spoke a single word to the driver. The Rolls stopped. The 
Nawab pointed. "What is your opinion of that?" 

About fifty yards in front of us a deep ditch crossed the road. 
Concrete anti-tank pillars made a line a hundred yards broad in front 
of the ditch. An immense amount of work had gone into it. 

I said, "The concrete is up to specification, I know. I have checked 
it myself." 

126 



He said, "So have I." 

I had a brief vision of the second richest man in India, perhaps in 
the world, banging away with a hammer in the dead of night, taking 
the chip back, bending over a test tube . . . 

The antitank defenses, taken by themselves, were fine, but they 
were in the wrong place by about eighty miles. They should have 
been put in the Lapri Gorge or just where it debouched onto the 
plain; and Lapri was eighty-five miles east. 

On the other hand, I had to work with General Gokal Singh, who 
had chosen the site. 

I said, "The defenses look very good, Your Highness. But I know 
that General Gokal Singh is planning to supplement them by another 
system nearer the border— at Lapri or Sakti." 

The Nawab grunted. "Drive on." 

We drove to the main airfield. It was one of the only three all- 
weather fields in Chambal capable of taking the heaviest planes— and 
it lay forward of the antitank defenses. Someone must have seen the 
Nawab coming, for we were greeted by an Air Force guard, and by 
the air marshal himself. I followed the Nawab, and said little. This 
felt much better. There were about fifty P-47 Thunderbolts dispersed 
around the field, and the air marshal— a Chambali prince and ex- 
playboy— knew his stuff and seemed to have an excellent relationship 
with the motley crowd of Australians, Austrians, Americans, and 
Italians who were flying the planes. Also, he had accumulated large 
stocks of high-octane gasoline, and spare parts for the planes. India 
had already cut off all supply through her ports. 

My heart missed a beat when the Nawab said, "You have been 
spending a great deal of money on petrol, Air Marshal. Are you sure 
you need that much?" 

The air marshal made the point I had just been thinking about- 
building up a reserve. The Nawab said, "You do not need a large 
reserve. It is just a waste of money." 

I kept my face wooden, though the air marshal caught my eye 
as he began to defend his expenses. The Nawab grunted and moved 
on. I wanted to talk to the air marshal about the progress he had 
made in training supply-dropping teams, but I had to trail along 
behind the Nawab and only had time to make an appointment with 
the air marshal. Supply dropping was a vital part of my plans for 
guerrilla war against the flanks of any Indian advance. 

We drove on, round the outside of the city, toward the main 

127 



barracks. Here, "by chance," we met Lieutenant General Gokal 
Singh, the deputy commander in chief, and also commander of the 
striking force. He turned his car and followed. He wasn't going to let 
the Nawab wander about unobserved, especially in company with me. 
Gokal was a Rajput, thirty-three years of age, a very bright and clever 
young man, sharp as a knife. With experience he might have been a 
great soldier. As it was, he thought he was much better than the facts 
indicated. 

At the barracks Gokal shot out of his car and reached ours in time 
to open the Nawab's door with one hand and salute with the other. 
The Nawab stared at the dozen Sherman tanks rumbling back and 
forth across the sandy parade ground. After five minutes he said, 
"Why is it flying a yellow flag?" 

Gokal said, "That is the troop leader's pennant, Your Highness. 
Each troop has a different color, and—" 

"They should all be green," the Nawab said, and climbed back 
into the Rolls. I saluted Gokal punctiliously, and followed. The old 
bigot wanted all his tanks flying the Muslim green. The majority of 
his soldiers were Hindus. I wasn't thinking about that, but about the 
waste of track mileage. Tanks can go only so far before their tracks 
and engines need major overhaul or replacement. The tank com- 
manders were wasting mileage because the exercise they were carrying 
out here should have been done in a classroom. I pulled out my 
notebook and made a note. Somehow I'd got to persuade Gokal that 
his tactical brilliance would do him no good if his tanks wouldn't run. 

The Nawab said, "Is he loyal?" 

"General Gokal Singh, sir?" I said, startled. 

The Nawab said, "He is a Rajput. No family. I made him what he 
is, raised him up from nothing, so that I would have a man who owed 
everything to me. He ought to be loyal. But I can trust no one." 

I didn't answer, because doubts about Gokal had entered my own 
mind. I had rejected them, feeling that I must not allow myself to be 
tainted by the universal suspiciousness. If we could not trust our 
chief battlefield commander, then we did not deserve to stand. 

The Nawab dropped me off at Army Headquarters and drove on. 
I looked at my watch. Another morning wasted. Now I couldn't set 
out for Digra until the next day. 

But I could not afford to waste the day. I went up into Head- 
quarters and looked for the chief of intelligence. I wanted to find 

128 



out how the corps of observers and spies I had organized along the 
borders was working. The chief of intelligence had gone to lunch. 
Tried to find the commander in chief, to discuss a training program for 
senior officers. He had not left his mansion today, and could not be 
disturbed. Looked for the commander of the city garrison, to check 
progress on plans for the protection of radio and power stations 
against sabotage. He had gone north to his son's wedding. Went 
disgustedly to my own office, stared at the wall, and wondered how I 
could make Lieutenant General Gokal Singh understand that he was 
not Rommel. Worried about the guerrilla plans for Lapri and 
Bhilghat. . . . Sent for the armored brigade tank history sheets and 
studied them; situation bad, as I thought; engine replacements due 
for about 20 per cent already, and the political affairs with India like 
a keg of dynamite. Wrote all afternoon, went to my house weary and 
ill at ease. 

And so on. . . . I only give a typical day during the period when 
my duties were solely military. Then, about another two months 
later, when I had been in Chambal five months, Hussein Ali sent for 
me and told me the time had come to use me in the political 
maneuverings designed to bring Kishanpur and smaller uncommitted 
states into some sort of alliance with Chambal. 

My waning enthusiasm rekindled. I needed Dip and his sensible, 
modern outlook here. Whatever the terms Chambal offered to him, 
they would have to include a measure of power in the affairs of the 
new country, and Dip had good ideas. 

I do not want to give the impression that life in Chambal was all 
bad. I was tired, and if there had been nothing but the medieval 
intrigues of the court and government, I would have given up within 
a month and crept back to England with my tail between my legs— 
or perhaps even gone back to Roy. But the thing that I believed in 
did exist, and you only had to leave the capital to feel it, as real and 
as wonderful as a dove in the hand. The peasants greeted you outside 
their hovels, standing upright against a poverty that would have caused 
many to bow and wail. There were country gentlemen living on their 
estates, where every man for five miles around behaved and was 
treated like a member of the aristocrat's family; and on the squire's 
whitewashed wall hung a sword that had been carried at First Panipat 
against Baber the Mogul in 1526, and at Laswari against Lord Lake, 
and finally been broken on a Sikh skull at Chilianwala. There were 

129 



old men with long white beards, who sat under the village tree and 
talked not of economic exploitation or democracy or colonialism but 
of honor and right and obligation. There were women with bright 
shards of mirror glass let into their swinging red skirts, who primly 
hung the sari over their heads when I passed; but if I went to the 
well and stood nearby, and talked to Ratanbir about the kind of 
woman we would like to marry, looking at them as we talked, then 
they would begin to laugh and giggle and, not looking at us, would 
throw out tangential comments of wonderful earthiness. 

Every time I escaped from Chambalpur my conviction that all this 
was worth preserving— not the poverty but the simple dignity— became 
recharged. At the same time I became more sure that ChambaTs hope 
lay in diplomacy rather than fighting, so I was delighted when Hus- 
sein gave me the orders that would, for a time at least, take me away 
from the charming old historical monument called the commander 
in chief, the Renaissance condottieri disguised as twentieth-century 
generals, and all the other animated museum pieces of the Chambal 
military establishment. 

Dip had long since, in August, invited me to Kishanpur for the 
Dussehra celebrations, so there was no need to invent a reason for my 
visit. Then, a few days before I was due to go he wired that the Indian 
Government had summoned him to Delhi and he had thought it ex- 
pedient to obey. I arranged to pick him up at Bhowani Junction on 
his way back, and so, in a beautiful dawn early in October, I set out in 
the Bentley, Ratanbir beside me and the suitcases and bedding rolls 
thrown into the back seat. 



130 



CRapter 10 



I was in excellent humor by the time Dip's train whistled for the 
station. First, I had escaped from Chambalpur. Second, I would see 
Sumitra again, and as a new man. I had a feeling that she had slept 
with me, and later visited me, out of compassion, which galled my 
pride. Now we could start afresh. Third, I had had time to reflect that 
Dip, after his visit to Delhi, would probably be in a receptive mood 
for my proposals. Roy might have frightened him with his threats: 
the method of getting the states into the Indian Union was quite 
simple— the iron hand in the iron glove— but it was more likely that 
Dip would be annoyed at the bullying. Fourth, while buying some 
matches in the Bhowani bazaar I had run into Tilakbahadur, the 
subadar major of the i/i3th Gurkhas, my own old battalion. He 
insisted that I bring Dip to the head cutting, always a very moving 
ceremony to me. Fifth, and last, the news that I was in Bhowani had 
then filtered rapidly from Tilakbahadur up to Max, who had invited 
us to have tea at Flagstaff House before setting out for Kishanpur. 

So I was feeling happy and almost young again as I scanned the 
windows of the incoming train, looking for Dip. Blue smoke and the 



smell of hot steel from the brakes filtered up from the grinding 
wheels. They stopped, and Dip opened a door, opposite where I 
waited. 

He looked cross, and I understood why when another man stepped 
down after him, and Dip curtly introduced him: "Mr. Mehta, of the 
C.I.D. Mr. Mehta, this is one of my oldest friends— Colonel Rodney 
Savage." The C.I.D. man's jaw dropped, and he licked his lips. It was 
obvious that he had been lecturing Dip all the way down from Delhi; 
equally obvious that he had specifically warned Dip to be on his 
guard against the dangerous Chambal agent, Savage. 

He had a large padlocked brief case in one hand. I leaped forward 
obligingly. "Can I help, Mr. Mehta? Allow me to carry that brief 
case for you." 

Mehta clutched the brief case tightly to his breast, and snapped, 
"No! . . . Thank you." 

"Just as you wish," I said affably. "Come on, Dip. I've got the car 
outside and we're going straight to the lines. Good-by, Mr. Mehta." 

We left the station, shuffling slowly out among the mob of 
travelers, Dip's servant and two coolies following behind with his 
suitcases. Dip muttered, "Bloody man. What right does he have to 
tell me what my duty is? . . . The lines, did you say? What lines?" 

I told him about the head cutting, and he said, "Really, I ought to 
get home, Rodney," but I saw that he did not mean it, and, being 
also certain that the change of atmosphere would do him good, I had 
no difficulty in persuading him. 

We sent the servant straight to Max's with Dip's kit and, our- 
selves, headed for cantonments. Ten minutes later we passed a 
Gurkha sentry at the roadside, and turned up a graveled road leading 
toward a row of long barrack buildings. As the car stopped, a dozen 
officers in jungle green came forward, followed by Gurkhas loaded 
with garlands. Dip joined his palms and bent his head. "Marigolds," 
he muttered. "Marigolds and zinnias. Don't you wish people would 
sometimes use flowers with a less cloying-sweet smell?" 

I introduced him round. "His Highness of Kishanpur, Colonel 
Mahadev, in command. Major Harbans Singh, Captain Lai ... I 
don't know you. What's your name?" I stopped in front of a burly 
young man with second lieutenant's badges and a fierce mustache. 

"Govind Singh Badhwar, sir. I have your old company, A." 

"Any relation to Hari, of Hodson's Horse?" 

*3 2 



"He is my uncle, sir." 

"Good. . . . He's a great man, and a good man. Don't let him 
sell you any ponies, though. He may be your uncle, but he's a 
damned horsecoper at heart. Have you still got that gad head, the 
one Rifleman Khagu shot in the middle of a battle in '37?" 

"Yes, sir. We always keep it in the champion platoon barrack 
room now. One of the eyes is missing." 

I smiled and turned to the colonel. "Is General Max coming, Jai?" 

"No, sir. He's with the i/4th this afternoon." 

"Oh, are they in the division too? Well, Dip, the colonel now 
proposes to hand us over to the subadar major . . . Tilakbahadur 
Gurung, Sardar Bahadur, O.B.I., I.O.M., M.C." 

Tilakbahadur was about forty-five, grizzled and powerful. His grip 
crushed Dip's fingers. I spoke aside to Tilakbahadur in Gurkhali, and 
Dip said, "What have you been telling him? To spike my drinks?" 

"Just the opposite. I was reminding him that we had a date with 
the general after this, and then we have to drive forty-seven miles— 
so would he please see that the drinks are kept at a reasonable size." 

Dip grinned, the subadar major saluted. We all drifted to the edge 
of the parade ground, and sat down at tables set out there under 
awnings. Huge glasses full of orange- tinted sweet rum appeared at our 
elbows. The subadar major sat on Dip's right, and an alert young 
subadar on my left. 

I sighed and settled back. So did Dip. This was the Indian Army. 
This was a Gurkha battalion celebrating the great Hindu festival of 
Dussehra. Tomorrow and the next day, in Kishanpur, Dip would 
preside over more formal celebrations of this same festival. It would 
be quite different, but it would have something of the same atmos- 
phere as here— a very different atmosphere from the miasma pre- 
vailing in New Delhi. 

All the battalion's arms were massed in hollow square to our right. 
Flowers stuck out of the rifle muzzles and garlands hung from the 
machine-gun barrels. This was the festival of the god of war, and 
good luck with the sacrifices would mean good luck in all the 
battalion's endeavors during the coming year. Though there was no 
shrine or image on the parade ground, the specter of Kali the De- 
stroyer, the necklace of skulls round her neck and her protruding 
tongue red with blood, towered over our imaginations. If we did not 
pay her homage correctly, it was we whom she would destroy. 

*33 



Tension mounted as a group of soldiers sang Gurkhali hymns. 
Others dragged a big male buffalo onto the parade ground and tied 
its head to a post set in the earth. A squad stood ready to fire a 
salute, rifles raised. A single man stepped forward, in white shorts 
and undershirt. He raised the heavy sacrificial kukri. The blade 
flashed in the sun and the buffalo's head flew off into the dust. 
Quickly the Brahmin bent and placed a live coal on the dead fore- 
head. A smell of burning hair, and blood, drifted into our nostrils. 
Dip looked shocked. I shouted, "Well done!" Everyone cheered and 
clapped and stomped. The squad fired three volleys. 

The soldier who had done the sacrifice came forward and bowed 
his head. Colonel Mahadev stood ready, a white cloth in his hand. 
I whispered to Dip that the colonel would wind the cloth round the 
man's head, like a puggaree, as a reward and a mark. 

But Mahadev turned to me, and said, "This was your battalion, 
sir. You made it what it is. We would be honored if you would tie 
the puggaree." 

For a moment I thought I would cry. My eyes hurt, but I managed 
to look up and take the cloth. "For the last time, then," I said. 
"Ai-ja, choro." The man stepped forward, straightened in salute, then 
bowed his powerful shoulders. I tied the cloth round his head. As I 
wound the cloth I said aloud, "You have done your duty cleanly and 
well. Do it so always." 

More men dragged on more buffaloes. There was more singing, 
and more blood; more horned heads joined the row in the dust. 
Small boys strutted out onto the ground, and with their fathers' 
heavy swords cut cucumbers in two. The rum was strong, Dip had 
settled into drowsy relaxation. "A barbaric spectacle," he said, "but 
in keeping with certain aspects of the religion. Very Indian, some- 
how. You won't see any sacrifices in Kishanpur, only processions, with 
the State elephants parading the streets and me in the Rawan jewels 
and the big hat— and my soldiers— all fifty of them— in yellow coats 
and pikes. A waste of money, but great fun, and a great annual event. 
I wonder how much longer it will go on . . ." 

Soon it was time to leave. All the officers and Gurkha Officers saw 
us off, and we were hung with more garlands until I wondered how 
Dip was able to see over the top of them, and I could hardly drive. 
Just before we started Ratanbir ran up and bundled himself into the 
back seat. I told him it looked as though the havildars had been gen- 

*34 



erous with their rum. He grinned amiably but said nothing. We 
drove away through the dusk, among cheering soldiers, and I had a 
big lump in my throat and a pain in my chest. 

At Flagstaff House the sentry at the gate saluted, examined us, and 
let us pass. A large table, spread with a white cloth, was set up on the 
far side of the lawn. Pressure lamps hung from trees nearby and 
turned the grass into a brilliant, translucent green carpet. Janaki 
Dadhwal came out onto the veranda, petite and beautiful in a white 
sari faintly patterned with green. I went slowly up the steps, took her 
hand, and kissed it. Max came out, rubbing his cheek with his hand. 
"Phew!" he said. "Those damned bun-faces of yours are going to wear 
me out, Rodney. And there's a nautch later tonight. Two more 
parties, a parade, and another nautch tomorrow. . . . Whisky, Dip?" 

Dip held up his hand. "Orange juice, please," he said, "and blot- 
ting paper." He helped himself to a curried tidbit. 

Max said, "Rodney, have you got any time to spare for a look at 
the Caves of Konpara? Janaki and I thought of going over next 
weekend— to recover from Dussehra. Or have you seen them?" 

I said, "They're worth seeing a hundred times, but sorry, I'm 
booked up." 

Conversation flowed gently round the table. I told them about a 
ruined Rajput fort I'd found in the southern part of Chambal, and 
the wonders which I thought a proper excavation would reveal. 
Janaki brought out some paintings she'd bought, done by a Punjabi 
artist just coming to prominence. 

Someone mentioned Gonds, and Dip said he had a problem with 
a small tribe of them living in the southern part of his State. They 
would have to be moved because a new dam and reservoir would 
flood their land. He didn't know what to do about them. 

I said, "Talk to the D.C. of Bijoli— Ranjit Singh. Sumitra knows 
him, so does Janaki here. Get him to fetch the Gond chief up from 
Bhilghat, old Gulu, and send him down to your Gonds. Gulu has 
enormous influence, and he's learned to adjust his thinking to the 
new times better than most. But, whatever he says to do, do it, or 
you'll be in worse trouble than ever— and so will the D.C. Gulu 
doesn't like to have his advice ignored." 

Janaki said, "Is there anything you don't know about this country, 
Rodney? It seems such a . . ." 

She did not finish, but sat, looking helplessly at me. Such a waste— 

*35 



I finished the sentence for her in my own mind. I felt like that, too. 
India's time for freedom had come, and I didn't want it otherwise, 
but why did I have to be thrown on the rubbish heap? Was it 
inherent in the situation, or only in my character? 

A visitor wearing sandals, dhoti, and Gandhi cap came across the 
lawn, his hands joined in a perfunctory namasti, the sentry trailing 
anxiously behind him. It was L. P. Roy. Max stood up, a look of 
alarm on his face. 

"Oh, please sit down," Roy said. "General, I am sorry to upset 
you at such a time, but there is an important matter . . ." 

He glanced round the group at the table. Janaki, as the hostess, 
had risen and was making namasti. Dip and I made the same gesture 
where we sat. 

Roy stared at me. "You!" he said. "Colonel Rodney Savage!" 

I said, "No, sahib. Brigadier Rodney Savage, O.B.E., M.C." 

For a moment I thought Roy was going to lose his volatile temper, 
but he controlled himself and turned instead to Max. "I did not 
expect to see this enemy of India at your house, general." 

Max said heavily, "He is an old friend, and a guest." 

"Where did those come from?" Roy indicated the garlands lying 
piled on the grass beside my chair. 

I began to say, "That is none of your business," but Max inter- 
rupted: "They were given to him by the officers and men of his old 
regiment, the 13th Gurkha Rifles." 

"Ah," Roy said. "He has been visiting military installations? A 
Chambal officer, visiting Indian military installations. At your invi- 
tation?" 

Max lowered his heavy head. He looked like a bull being goaded 
by a bull terrier. He said, "Not at my invitation. At the invitation 
of the colonel commanding the battalion, but with my full per- 
mission and approval. . . . It's an act of common courtesy." 

"You put courtesy before proper military caution?" Roy snapped. 

Max said, "I put it before anything, sahib. . . . Not courtesy, I 
mean— doing what an Indian gentleman ought to do, or any other 
kind of gentleman . . . what he has to do." 

"I see," Roy said, pressing the tips of his fingers together and 
raising himself lightly up and down on the balls of his feet. "I see." 

Max was beginning to lose his heavy Jat temper. He growled, 
"Colonel Savage and others like him taught our army to do its duty, 

136 



at all times. It was not he who tried to subvert the loyalty of Indian 
troops for political purposes/' 

"For political purposes, general? Can you refer to our efforts to 
attain the independence of our nation?" 

Max did not answer, and I thought sadly, Roy's too clever, too 
intense for him. Still, they were such bloody fools. Casting aspersions 
on Max's loyalty to India was like accusing Nehru of selling out to 
the British . . . and I'd heard that said, too. 

Roy said, "Well, I did not come here to meet Colonel Savage . . . 
or even His Highness of Kishanpur." He bowed perfunctorily to Dip. 
"I have some important matters to discuss with you, in private." 

"Excuse me," Max said and, at Roy's side, crossed the lawn toward 
the bungalow. 

No one spoke. Roy's job was to take all necessary political action, 
create all necessary political pressure, which would force Chambal 
and the smaller Indian states into the Indian Union. He had paid 
one official visit to Dip in Kishanpur, but was in constant secret 
correspondence with the leaders of the Kishanpur Progressive party. 
The party contained about a thousand members and everyone knew 
that their role was to riot for union with India on the signal from 
Roy— thus giving India an excuse to send in her troops to restore 
order. To send in Max, in fact. 

I caught Dip's eye and stood up. "I think we'd better be on our 
way, Janaki." As though at a secret signal, Dip's servant slipped out 
of the darkness behind his chair and murmured, "The Presence's bags 
are loaded into the car." Ratanbir was there, saluting. 

I did not speak until we were ten miles out on the road to 
Kishanpur. Dust hung under the double avenue of trees, for bullock 
carts swung slowly along the wide unpaved verges or in the middle 
of the road, sometimes with the drivers dozing on the cart. The 
Bentley's headlights bored a short wide tunnel, which shaded away 
from white to a dense green-shadowed brown as the dust reflected 
back the rays. Bullocks, and carts, and occasionally a man on foot 
loomed suddenly out of it, and once the leaping orange flames of a 
fire at the edge of a mango grove, where a family prepared to sleep. 

The familiar, appalling sense of home, of love that could not be 
returned, settled in me. There was no sense of time when that mood 
came, only place— India. I knew that a Roman legion would not come 
out of that dust ahead— that would be ridiculous, though I'd often 

*37 



expected to see one march out of a fog on the Wiltshire downs . . . 
but Aurangzeb might come, sick and old, carried in a litter, reading 
the Holy Koran, remembering all the people, all the beauty, he had 
destroyed in order to preserve the Faith, and knowing at the last that 
he had preserved nothing— only destroyed. British infantry might 
come, with fife and drum, Kipling's infantry, the green flag with the 
bull, and Kim, and Mulvaney, Learoyd and Ortheris, and Danny 
Deever in the middle, a rope round his neck and the Pioneer Ser- 
geant on his right with apron and ax ... Or the Mahrattas, Dip's 
ancestors. Can you hear the light horses neighing and the muffled pad 
of the hoofs in the dust f round shields and steel helmets shining in 
the light there, and the spears slanting back on their shoulders^ and 
the smell of blood as they canter endlessly past? . . . 

I shook my head violently, shaking away the dream. I said, "Do 
you realize that that is the man— L. P. Roy— who will take over rule 
of your State, Dip?" 

Dip made a half-motion, touching my arm and at the same time 
indicating that Ratanbir and his own servant were in the back. The 
atmosphere in New Delhi had made him nervous and suspicious. I 
said, "A Gurkha havildar and the body servant of a Rajah of Kishan- 
pur are to be trusted, totally. When the time comes that such men 
cannot be trusted, then there will be no need or place for a Rajah 
of Kishanpur, or for Rodney Savage— or for Max/' 

Dip said, "I don't know what to do." 

We remained silent for some miles. At length I said, "Feel that 
you're in a swamp? I've been there. . . . There's not much more I 
can say about the political side which other's haven't told you before, 
a dozen times, a hundred times, I expect— from both sides." 

"Two hundred," Dip said bitterly. 

"Yes. Well, I'd like to stress another aspect. You know the Indian 
Government, besides taking away your powers, will also take over the 
State revenues and give you an allowance instead, decreasing it for 
your children—" 

"I don't have any." 

"Perhaps you will, later. . . . There's a lot of money in these 
states, much of it in gold bullion and jewels . . ." 

"I have a couple of million pounds' worth in the castle vaults," 
Dip said. 

"I know. And there's plenty more under your moneylenders' beds. 

138 



That money is doing nothing. It ought to be hiring international 
lawyers for us, to put our case to The Hague, and the UN. It ought 
to be employing public relations experts for us. It ought to be buying 
more fighters and bombers, so that we'll be too strong for Nehru to 
take the high hand he took with Hyderabad. I say 'us/ and I mean 
'us/ If we don't hang together we'll hang separately. Even if you 
don't want to come in with Chambal afterward, you're mad not to 
join us in a mutual defense pact. India suspects that we've got such 
a pact already— and another between all of us and Pakistan. That's 
the only thing that's prevented them sending Max in months ago. 
And what do you think they're waiting for now?" 

"Kashmir," Dip said. 

"Of course. As soon as that's settled, or at least put on the shelf— 
you've had it." 

Dip groaned aloud. "I know, Rodney, I know! But . . . however 
much I hate them individually, however much I dislike some of their 
ideas, however hard I try, I can't finally see any practical alternative." 

"The new Chambal Federation is the only answer. . . . Tomor- 
row I'll give you a long secret letter from the Nawab, written in his 
own hand, in Urdu so high-flown that no one can understand it— but 
there is a typewritten English version. It is in three parts: the terms 
of incorporation into Chambal, the details of a mutual defense pact, 
and the details of a loan program, at enormous rates of interest to 
you. We need money." 

"But I thought the Nawab had all the money in the world, now 
that the Nizam's out," Dip said. 

"He did," I said, "but we really mean to be independent. I'll tell 
you something that Mr. Roy does not know yet. He will tomorrow 
morning. We have bought a six-inch-gun cruiser and two destroyers 
from a certain South American country. They will be delivered to- 
night, at Digra, complete with Italian crews." 

"My God," Dip said, appalled. "There'll be war." 

"Not just yet," I said. "But I want you to stop thinking we're all 
helpless, that we're in the grip of something bigger than we can cope 
with. India is not all-powerful." 

Then Dip said almost exactly what Roy had once said, "No, but 
history is." And I sat silent, half in fear, half in anger. 

The Bentley rolled out onto a long bridge. As we always did at this 
point, we looked upstream. The black bulk of Kishanpur Fort 

J 39 



towered above the right bank of the placid river, silhouetted against 
the lighter southern sky. The smooth water reflected lights from the 
fort windows, and a thousand lights pricked the darkness from the 
city huddled to the left of the fort. 

"Home/' Dip said. 

"For how long?" I said. 

I turned the Bentley carefully through the narrow, double-angled 
entrance to the Fort. An old man in yellow livery made a deep 
obeisance. Three servants appeared under distant arches, running. 

Dip climbed out. "Sumitra's come down to greet us," he said. "She 
doesn't often do that." 

I watched Sumitra sweep forward with the smooth, swinging 
motion that sent a tremor through my loins the first time I saw her. 

She had heard what Dip said. She was smiling, her hand extended. 
"Of course I came down when the watchman telephoned. I'm the 
chatelaine, aren't I? How are you, Rodney?" 

She looked stunning— a slim white silk cocktail dress, high heels, 
a single rope of rubies. As I greeted her I wondered again whether 
Dip knew of our affair. She had come alone to Pattan once, and Dip 
knew it was hard for any man to resist her if she set out to seduce 
him. But that was the time she returned two days earlier than he 
expected— so perhaps he would believe that I had resisted her. I'm 
afraid it didn't matter very much to me. Whatever the basis of their 
marriage, sexual jealousy certainly didn't form part of it or Dip would 
have committed suicide or murder ten years ago. I thought he loved 
her, and her waywardness hurt him only because he could not him- 
self provide, could not himself become, whatever it was that she 
needed— and that was much more than a human stallion. I was sur- 
prised that he hadn't long since decided it would be a kindness to 
everyone to divorce her and take a new wife. Probably he had thought 
so, but couldn't do it. He was like me. He just had to go on the way 
he was going, and take what came. 

We went up into the Fort. 



140 



Ctapter 11 



"You are not very exciting company tonight, Rodney." 

Sumitra touched my arm as she spoke. We were leaning over the 
upper battlements of the Fort, watching the procession forming in 
the courtyard below. 

I said, "Sorry." 

I was dead-beat. Five days had passed since Dip and I drove in that 
night. Every day had added up to exhaustion— long, wrestling con- 
ferences with Dip; colorful, noisy public processions; fireworks; 
nautches; State dinners. Dip was as tired as I. I saw his head nodding 
forward under the big sail hat down there in the caparisoned howdah 
far below me, and I saw the chamberlain nudge him respectfully. 
Dip started awake, and sat up. The elephants rolled out toward the 
lights and the yelling crowds and the rockets already soaring up into 
the night. 

I would not have been tired if I had won. I had lost. Before dinner 
this night Dip finally told me he would not join Chambal, would not 
sign a mutual defense pact, would not lend us any of his gold. He 
was in terrible distress to have to say it to me, and he still did not 

141 



know what he was going to do— only what he was not. I had been 
plodding round and round in his personal morass with him for so 
long that I was almost glad to get out of it, even though in the wrong 
direction. 

I had lost. If only L. P. Roy had come, fanatical and threatening, 
it might have swung the trick. If only Max had moved his troops 
menacingly closer to the frontier. He hadn't (but his division had 
been reinforced by an armored brigade of Sherman tanks, I learned). 
I had lost. And if Kishanpur kept out, Konpara and the smaller states 
would certainly follow suit. They had no choice. Without Kishanpur 
they would be politically and geographically isolated. 

I looked at Sumitra. She twitched the blue chinchilla cape a little 
more closely round her shoulders and stared back at me. The star- 
light showed the clear outline of her face against the distant violet 
blur of the night horizon. I was wearing a dinner jacket, the coat 
buttoned against the chill from the river, and a white silk scarf 
thrown round my neck. I was smoking one of my cheap strong 
cheroots. She was wearing black diamante sandals and a slim three- 
quarter-length black evening dress. Her manner toward me these five 
days had been warm, but until now no natural opportunity had come 
to be alone with her, and I had created none. My whole being was 
concentrated on Dip and my task. Nor had Sumitra made any ad- 
vance; only watched me with increasing concentration and, it seemed, 
puzzlement. I had been very much aware of her. There were mo- 
ments when a purely animal lust stalked upon me like a lion out of 
its cage. Desperately I wanted to feel those satiny thighs wrap round 
me; but before the desire could become frenzy, a thought would 
come about the business in hand— some point I had not fully ex- 
plained to Dip, some new angle from which I could exert pressure on 
him . . . and lust would slink back to its lair. 

As the tail of Dip's procession left the courtyard I said, "That's 
that." I turned to her, dropped my cheroot, and took her in my arms. 
After a moment's resistance she responded eagerly, and at once my 
exhaustion left me. In a trice we were locked in one of those belly- 
pressing, leg-twining, rocking, helpless clinches which can only have 
one proper end. I could feel her sliding down, going limp in my arms, 
and at the same time becoming muscularly and rhythmically alive. 
It would finish on the stone roof there, and that would be right. 
That's that, I had said, and now the lovely beast was out of its cage 

142 



for good. I moved my hand and slid it up under her dress. 

With a tremendous and unexpected effort she fell away from me 
and stumbled across the roof toward the far parapet, overlooking the 
river. I ran after her, and caught her shoulders as she leaned over. 
She resisted the pressure of my hands, as I tried to turn her round to 
face me. "Sumitra," I whispered in her ear. "For God's sake! We 
have so little time. In a couple of days I've got to be back to 
Chambal, and then . . ." 

And then we'd be cut apart for as long as my mind could imagine. 
Win or lose, there was soon going to be no chance for me to revisit 
India or for her to come to Chambal. I pulled more urgently at her 
shoulder. 

She half turned. "Wait . . ." she began. 

I caught her and kissed her again. Again, for a moment, she gave 
herself up, and was swept to me by the same violent physical need 
that made me tug and pull at her dress until it was up over her waist. 

"Rodney!" she gasped, turning her lips away from mine. "Wait!" 

I stood back a pace, breathing deep, trembling, utterly aroused, my 
eyes fixed on her loins, where the high-riding dress hung like a 
theater curtain over the remembered dark triangle of hair and the 
strong curve and countercurve of thigh and groin and mount of 
Venus. 

She recovered some of her breath. "There can ... be more . . . 
time ... for us . . ." She got the words out slowly, in bursts. 

One side of the dress slipped down of its own, covering half her 
loins. I made a move to her but she held up her hand. "I can come 
to Chambal . . ." 

The other side of the dress slipped down over her hips and, grace- 
fully, the whole fell in a slow draping until it hung as before, femi- 
nine and civilized, covering the female animal. 

She said, "Give me a puff of one of those awful things." 

I lit another cheroot and when it was going well handed it to her. 
She drew on it two or three times, coughed once and gave it back to 
me. "That's better. . . . Dip has made up his mind against you." 

She was leaning back against the battlements, the stone pressing 
into the small of her back. I said nothing. We had never mentioned 
politics in front of her, and she had never showed any sign, now or 
before, of taking the slightest interest in it. 

She said, "Dip hasn't said a word. But it's obvious. I am not a 

M3 



fool, and I do have interests outside Kinder, Kiiche, Kirche— perhaps 
because I am a childless atheist with a good cook. . . . What would 
you do if I told you that I did not agree with Dip? That I thought 
Kishanpur should join Chambal?" 

"I don't know what I would do," I said slowly, "but I know you 
couldn't do anything . . . short of poisoning Dip, announcing your- 
self as rani-regent, and issuing a proclamation. But the days for that 
kind of thing are past." 

"What about money?" she said. "Don't you need money?" 

I found myself saying Yes, though our financial maneuverings were 
covered in as much secrecy as our military preparations. (When the 
news of our cruiser broke, the Indians ordered their biggest ships up 
to Bombay, which is less than two hundred miles steaming from the 
Chambal port of Digra. Pakistan promptly sent its tiny fleet to sea, 
on maneuvers. What annoyed the Indian Government most was that 
our cruiser hit headlines all over the world. Their interest was always 
to sweep the whole business under the rug and keep the world 
ignorant not only of the issues but of the fact that there was a prob- 
lem at all.) 

"I could give you half a million pounds," she said. 

I stared at her in astonishment. Six million rupees was a lot of 
money. She might have saved a lakh or so, but Kishanpur was not a 
very rich state. The gold in the vaults had been collected over cen- 
turies. Dip had never been in a position to give her a really big allow- 
ance, nor had she picked up exclusively with multimillionaires on the 
Riviera. 

"You're serious, aren't you, in this Chambal business?" she asked. 

There was something about the tone of her voice, something about 
the steady, penetrating look in her huge eyes, that made me pause 
before answering. I began to speak slowly. Yes, I was serious. I had 
never been so serious in my life. I tried to tell her. I tried to tell her 
about an Indian land where there could be dignity as well as prog- 
ress, splendor as well as justice. 

"And you think you can attain it?" she asked. "I mean you, your- 
self. Or are you fighting for the sake of fighting?" 

"I think we can attain it," I said. "Myself ... I feel that I have 
been given a second chance. For all the time we English have been 
here, certainly for the past fifty years, we seem to have been heading 
the wrong way. Now I've been given an opportunity to put that 

144 



right. At the moment it's a matter of righting, or being prepared to 
fight, like Israel. But I suppose Israel has an idea beyond self- 
defense, something it means to become— and so do we. . . . Why 
aren't people like Max and P. R. Sethi in public life? They and hun- 
dreds of thousands like them, some who speak English, plenty who 
don't. I mean decent people, people everyone respects and trusts. 
Why? . . . Because they won't lie and stoop and fawn. What is 
right is not always popular— it's practically never popular. . . . We 
left the democratic process here, but we did not leave England's 
real secret— mutual respect among people, tolerance, independence 
of thought ..." 

My cheroot tasted foul and I threw it far out over the battlements, 
so that the red spark fell in a long curve down to the river. 

"I, too," she said slowly, "I, too, have been given a second chance. 
India was mine. What could I not have achieved with this name, this 
position— Sumitra, Rani of Kishanpur? I rejected everything. I don't 
know why. Perhaps because everything seemed so settled. I do not 
like to have my fate cut out for me. This is a custom-bound country, 
and Dip is more deeply held by it than you would think. I would 
obviously have no say in the running of the State, so I never tried. 
I should have looked further, but I didn't. I went to Europe, and 
found men I could influence, men who were making something of 
themselves, against odds. Men like you." I put out my hand, but she 
only touched it delicately, then went on speaking. "I never thought 
of the British leaving India. I never expected to feel involved in the 
fate of peoples, only in the fate of people, singly. . . . Now I do, 
I am involved, deeply. I will come to Chambal." 

I felt a little dizzy. If the Rani of Kishanpur came to Chambal, 
openly announcing her support for our position, it would be a tre- 
mendous coup; and it would give us more publicity. No other rani 
would have served that purpose so well, because the European and 
American press knew her, and her name and picture meant some- 
thing outside India. On the other hand, the old Nawab would look 
on her with deep distrust, suspecting more Hindu trickery. Perhaps 
not. Who was it said there is nothing so persuasive as a million 
dollars? She was offering more than that. 

"Where is the money coming from?" I asked her. I still could not 
quite convince myself that all this was not a crazy joke. 

She said, "The Rawan jewels. Tomorrow evening Dip and I will 

N5 



be wearing all that we can carry of them, and the rest will be in the 
vaults. I can hand the whole lot to you any time in the night. They 
fill two suitcases." 

The Rawan jewels were very well known. They were a fabulous 
collection of gems, brooches, tiaras, rings, necklaces, and other Hindu 
ornaments, such as anklets, and nose jewels, made up at various times 
over the past thousand years. One or two pieces were valuable simply 
because they were old, others because of the size of the gems, others 
again because of the artistic genius that had gone into the shaping 
of them. The whole collection was priceless in the sense that Ajanta 
or the Konpara sculptures or Nanda Devi or the Ganges is priceless. 
They were part of India's heritage. They were part of the whole 
complex that is India. 

Earlier this evening Dip had rejected that heritage. Though I 
understood his reasons, I despised him. If a man will not fight for 
what is his when the chance is given to him, he does not deserve to 
keep it. He himself might wish to knuckle under to India, but he 
could not complain if Sumitra had the courage to fight. It was also 
peculiarly fitting that she should bring with her not bearer bonds or 
Swiss francs but jewels. It was very right, and very Indian, that 
ancient jewels should be used to preserve an ancient dignity. 

I would have to devise a plan to smuggle the jewels out of Kishan- 
pur. I had the Bentley. I had Ratanbir. I could . . . But tomorrow 
was another day. Tomorrow would be time enough for that, 

Full realization of Sumitra's meaning flooded into me. "You will 
really come to Chambal— with me?" 

I could say no more. It would not be quite truthful to say that I 
loved her. Yearning for her body, longing to learn what made her 
tick, fascination with her personality, these did not yet amount to 
love. Perhaps it was an element of self-protection that had prevented 
me going quite over the edge while she had seemed so inaccessible. 
I could hardly stand another hopeless love, such as I had given in 
the past to Janaki and Victoria Jones. But the sudden revelation 
of her ideals and sense of purpose; recognition of the depths below 
the narcissistic surface; appreciation of her courage in taking this tre- 
mendous step— these set off a trigger, which ignited a charge, which 
would, I knew, lead now inevitably to love. 

I took her hands. 

"Wait!" she said again, with a terrible sharpness. "Rodney, it's no 

146 



use pretending I don't find you exciting. But I didn't say I would 
come to Chambal with you. I said, I will come to Chambal. . . . 
Think, Rodney. Remember what I said to you at Pattan. I cannot 
promise to fall in love, as you will. I cannot promise not to betray 
you, as I am betraying Dip. There is a woman in me who is not 
subject to any rules of behavior, or decency, or obligation. When this 
woman starts to move me, I go." 

I took her hands and lifted them and put them round my neck. 
I leaned forward and kissed her on the lips, my arms round her. Her 
hands tightened, her head turned away. She whispered, "I warn you, 
Rodney, I warn you!" 

I found her lips again and slowly, resisting, they opened to me, 
and she gave a long sigh against my mouth, and I led her across the 
rooftop, she leaning against me and walking with dragging drowsy 
steps, and I took her down to her room, and locked the door, and 
undressed her, and as she lay naked on the bed I looked long into 
her eyes, which had grown dull and wide and feverish, and, having 
lost all frenzy in the knowledge that this was a beginning, not an 
end, I kissed and stroked and made love to every part of her body, 
and finally locked myself into and upon her in a passion of love that 
seemed to have no end, but went on outside time, in the motion 
and countermotion of a liquid eternity, until a long bar of duck-egg 
green light shining on the ceiling told us it was dawn. 



■47 



Chapter 12 



Sumitra came to Chambalpur five days after my own return there. 
My first day Hussein and the Nawab and the council of state kept 
me so busy I hardly had time to think. I told them first about my 
failure with Dip. The Nawab questioned me sharply. My enemies 
hinted that the failure was my fault. I would have found it easy to 
lose my temper if I had not been thinking of Sumitra. Hussein pro- 
tected me from the more foolish insinuations by letting out that the 
mission had been regarded as hopeless from the first. Of course, I 
thought. How could I have believed that they would let me get the 
credit, if they had expected any credit to be going? 

Then I told them about Sumitra. After a few moments of thunder- 
struck silence, enthusiasm became general. The public relations ex- 
pert embraced me. The Nawab looked suspicious— but he always did; 
and even he smiled when I told them about the six million rupees. 

The second day I waited with increasing anxiety for Ratanbir. We 
had left Kishanpur together at dawn the day before in the Bentley, 
with the suitcases containing the jewels just thrown into the back 
seat under our own. Five miles outside the city the car I had hired 

148 



was waiting for us. Ratanbir transferred to it, and they set off south- 
ward on a byroad, while I continued west. I drove slowly, and a little 
later spent an hour sitting in a jungle clearing, the Bentley concealed. 
Near Bhowani, when over the border, the Indian police stopped me. 
That was interesting because it showed that Dip had decided to bring 
them into the matter; which in turn meant his total surrender, be- 
cause the Indian Government had already announced that they re- 
garded State and crown jewels as the property of the people, hence 
their property. 

It also showed that the theft had been discovered early. Sumitra 
had warned me she could not give me more than an hour's grace, and 
I was prepared. 

While I was at the police thana, after they had searched the car 
and found nothing, the inspector telephoned Kishanpur. Since the 
Indian telephone system was primitive, and since I was in the next 
room, I heard every shouted word. The inspector was speaking to Dip 
himself. He said that he had found nothing. Nevertheless, he could 
arrest and hold me under Emergency Regulations if His Highness 
wished. A long silence. No, His Highness did not wish. Then Dip 
must have asked to speak to me. The inspector called to me, but I 
shouted, "I have nothing to say to His Highness." 

I felt no qualm of conscience about the jewels. If he was willing to 
allow India's claim to them he could hardly treat it as a personal theft 
for personal gain, which of course it wasn't. I would have liked to 
tell him, before it happened, that Sumitra was leaving him, but she 
wanted to tell him that herself. I would have liked to say I was sorry 
it turned out that she was leaving him for me, because in spite of 
everything I liked him; but Sumitra was going to leave him sooner 
or later, everyone had known that for years, and in truth I was not 
sorry. I was delirious with happiness and expectation. 

A little later the inspector let me go. By then I reckoned Ratanbir 
should be thoroughly lost to view on dirt roads and jungle cart tracks 
in the south. He should have entered Chambal territory the same 
night, and reached the capital this second day. 

He did not. The third day he did not come. The fourth day I left 
Chambalpur at dawn, drove to the southeast corner of the State, and 
spent the day inquiring of police officials, guerrillas, and military out- 
posts whether they had seen such and such a car, or such and such a 
man, whether they had heard of an accident. Nothing. I reached 

149 



Chambalpur again at three in the morning, and slept fitfully and 
unhappily. 

At noon Sumitra arrived. The propaganda people had arranged a 
huge press campaign to tell the world about the accession of the Rani 
of Kishanpur to our side. I was waiting at the Nawab's palace when 
she drove up in a big Chambali Cadillac with her maid and the 
Grand Wazir. A hundred photographers and journalists milled about 
the reception room like a racecourse crowd. Flash bulbs exploded, 
cameras clicked, women scribbled, men shouted questions. 

Standing with her on a dais the Nawab looked old and disgusted. 
He hated publicity of all kinds and could never unbend. Sumitra 
made a little speech about freedom and self-determination. She was 
very beautiful. Someone asked her whether the rumor was true that 
she had brought the Rawan jewels with her. Dip and the Indians had 
tried to keep that quiet, but something had leaked. Sumitra said she 
knew nothing about them. 

Two hours later they drove her to one of the Nawab's large houses 
by the edge of the lake, and the press finally left her alone. I was 
already living in another wing of that house. The fact would doubt- 
less be mentioned by some of the journalists when they wrote up 
their stories. I did not care. 

She came to me as soon as she had bathed and changed. We fell 
greedily into each other's arms and assuaged our physical hunger. 
Afterward, her face again made up, we talked business. I told her that 
Hussein Ali was coming round after dinner for a formal discussion 
of her role here. Then she ran through the names of the principal 
men of the State, their positions, characters, and influence. She knew 
an amazing amount about them and I had little occasion to correct 
her. 

"And now you'd better give me the jewels, darling, so that I can 
give them to Hussein," she said. "That's the price of admission, after 
all." 

I said miserably, "They're not here yet." 

Watching her arrival, making love to her, talking to her, had 
enabled me to forget my worry, but now it was back. She looked at 
me with her big eyes, which were momentarily cold. 

"Ratanbir hasn't arrived," I said. I walked up and down the room, 
beating my fist in my hand. "I don't know what the hell can have 
happened to him, but something has. Suppose he was caught and 

150 



arrested while passing through India ... I don't think so. There 
must have been an accident. The poor little devil's lying injured in 
some hut miles from anywhere . . ." 

She got up and put her arm round me. "My poor Rodney. . . . 
He's all right. The car may have broken down. He would have had to 
use some pretty bad roads, wouldn't he?" 

"Yes/' I said. "He was crossing India through Bhilghat. The road's 
awful." 

"Don't worry/' she said, "he'll turn up soon. ... I can find some 
other way of convincing the Nawab of my value to the cause . . . 
though he'd much prefer to have the jewels. What was he going to 
do with them, by the way?" 

"Sell them in Europe/' I said. "There are ways. We would have 
raised about half their real value. . . . The Indians are watching 
every road now. Ratanbir may have had to leave the car miles back 
and come on by bullock cart. I sent a message to the Gonds to look 
out for him . . ." 

"The Bhilghat Gonds?" she said. "But they're in India." 

"Yes," I said, "but they're working secretly for me. They will be 
ready to rise when the time comes." 

Later, the meeting with Hussein went off well. He advised her to 
introduce herself to the ladies of the Nawab's household, and the 
households of all the leading council members and generals. She was 
to keep her ears open, particularly about the strength of the ladies' 
attachment to the Chambal cause. She was to visit hospitals and run 
fund-raising bazaars, and do anything else that would get her picture 
in the papers. 

"Can I not organize women's battalions, for labor and clerical 
work, nursing, even fighting?" she asked. 

Hussein looked a little unhappy. "That is against the Nawab's 
policy," he said. "We are, after all, fighting for the old ideals. 
Woman's place is in the home." 

I had a twinge there. This was feudalism, but I could not complain. 
You have to take people's bad ideas as well as their good ones, and 
do the best you can to teach them. 

Hussein took an opportunity to speak to me alone the next day. 
He warned me to tell Sumitra nothing that was not necessary for her 
to know. I was indignant. "What is the point of having her if we 
don't trust her?" I asked. 

*5 a 



"We do," he said, "but in another sense, we trust nobody. You, 
after all, do not know exactly what I am always doing, do you? Be- 
cause I tell you only what you need to know." 

"How can you mistrust someone who's giving half a crore's worth 
of jewels to the cause?" I said heatedly. 

"She hasn't, yet," he said, smiling. 

"But damn it, I've told you, that's nothing to do with her. If it's 
anyone's fault, it's mine." 

I began to tell him that this uinversal suspicion was the curse of 
Chambal, but soon gave up. Hussein could not abolish it any more 
than I could. I turned to my work. 

It felt better, more worthwhile now. 

Sumitra made the difference, sweeping through my existence like 
a current of fresh air. It helped her that she shared a house with me, 
because none of the high Chambal ladies— and they were as suspi- 
cious and secretive as a nibble of weasels— could think that she was 
after their husbands. In two days she had got to know a dozen of the 
most important women in the State, and became so busy I hardly 
saw her until late at night. 

So I was surprised when she came to my study about teatime on 
her fifth day in Chambal. I was working on a master plan for the 
defense of the Lapri Gorge. I pushed the maps away and stood up. 
She was smiling, her arms out. She hugged me tight, and kissed my 
face and neck and arms. "Oh, Rodney, I'm so glad!" 

"What's happened?" I asked. 

She gave me a letter. It was from Dip to her. He thanked her for 
seeing that the jewels were returned to Kishanpur. He told her that 
he had paid Ratanbir the reward. He hoped that she was well. Signed. 
"P.S. I shall always love you. Do remember that, wherever you go." 

"Of course, I had nothing to do with getting the jewels back," I 
heard her say. 

I read the letter three times. I threw it down on the floor. "It's not 
true!" I shouted. 

She looked at me. Her smile had become sad. 

"It's a bloody lie," I shouted. "The Indians caught him and handed 
back the jewels. Ratanbir had nothing to do with it." 

She held my arm. "Rodney, is it so impossible? He knew that you 
and I stole them. Didn't you tell me, the other night, that you once 
had him making preparations to rob a bank in Delhi? You're not 

152 



Colonel Savage of the 13th Gurkha Rifles any more. You haven't 
been for a long time. Is it so dreadful that he should not be Havildar 
Ratanbir any more? That he should have learned these other attitudes 
from you, in the same way that he learned to shoot and march?" 

I could not speak. I could not accept what she said. If it were true, 
I could trust no one. I could not trust her. 

She said, "It doesn't matter. I'm so glad! I thought you had taken 
them for yourself." She caught my look. "What else was I to think? 
It didn't seem so very terrible, to me. And you must admit that you 
are a mass of contradictions. How am I to know when you are going 
to think like a sahib and when you're going to think like— like one of 
your merchant-pirate ancestors?" 

She hugged me and kissed me again, but I felt miserable. The more 
miserable I felt the more she warmed toward me. "What about that 
P.S.?" I asked. "Do you still love Dip?" 

She said, "I never did. This Chambal cause has given me the in- 
centive to end a farce. He ought to marry again. I like him, that's all. 
It's finished." And she hugged and crooned over me. 

Two days later she came in, again at teatime, and began to hug me 
with a warmth and affection quite distinct from sensual passion. 
"What now?" I asked. 

"Dwarkanath and the bribe," she said, looking fondly at me. 

"Oh," I said. Dwarkanath was a man who'd landed a contract for 
building barracks down at Digra, the port. I had flown down, found 
the work far below specifications and was even then writing a report 
to Hussein Ali. Dwarkanath had offered me twenty thousand rupees 
to keep quiet. I had refused with vehemence and abuse. 

"You realize this will put So-and-so against you," she said, naming 
three generals and a minister who owed a great deal to Dwarkanath, 
and vice versa. 

"I don't care," I said. "I'm fighting for tradition— but not this one." 

"Yes," she said slowly. "You are an idealist, after all." That night, 
after the love-making, which was as long and as detailed as the night 
at Kishanpur, she whispered in my ear, "I love you, Rodney." 

Then she burst into tears, and for an hour I held her against me, 
while she sobbed quietly and whispered over and over again, "But I 
love you, I love you." 

I felt that I had mounted the steed Pegasus. She lifted me out and 
above the poison gas of Chambal politics. I went at my work with a 

*53 



new vigor and came back at night refreshed and alert, to be trans- 
ported by the magic of her love and affection to new, more vivid 
clouds. 

I needed all the energy and elan I could muster. India began an 
economic blockade against us, and it became harder and harder to 
keep the army and the civilian populace content. Our three Constel- 
lations flew in from Europe, via Karachi, as fast as they could make 
the round trip, bringing in arms and supplies, but it was a drop in 
the bucket against our needs. Chartered ships plied in and out of 
Digra at enormous cost. There the cruiser H.H.S. Chambal lay to her 
moorings, conserving oil, while the Italian crew played cards and 
suffered from le cafard. Our puny railroad system began to fall to 
pieces. We were fast reaching the point where we must force India 
to act. If we did not, we would collapse of our own weight. 

I poured out my thoughts to Sumitra. She soothed me, her hand 
on my brow. I said, "There are times when I feel there can be no 
building until we pull everything up by the roots, His Obstinate 
Highness included, and start again from scratch . . ." 

"That's what the Indians are trying to do," she said. She took my 
hand and held it right. "And, Rodney darling . . " she began. 

I interrupted. "But I've eaten the old bugger's salt and, by God, 
I'm going to earn it." I jumped up and poured myself a stiff drink. 
Sumitra sighed, and I mentioned that the Nawab mistrusted her, as 
he mistrusted everybody. "I expected it," she said. "Perhaps he'll 
feel different tomorrow. I've unearthed an Indian agent— quite an 
important one. Ram Lubhaya." 

"My God," I said. "Are you sure?" 

Lubhaya was No. 2 in the Communications Department. 

"Yes," she said, "I heard something, and told the secret police 
yesterday. Today they searched his house and found incriminating 
letters from L. P. Roy. He's in jail now." 

"That ought to show them about you," I said. 

She said, "Yes. I think it will." 

Two weeks later I went down to Lapri to run a training exercise 
for the local guerrillas. I had been to Lapri many times during my 
time in Chambal, for the gorge and the Sakti plain behind were the 
keys to any military defense of Chambal. Twice I had seen Margaret 
Wood. She was looking more composed, though wan and tired. The 
loneliness must have been getting her down because she gave me tea 

*54 



and obviously tried to keep me, talking about nothing, until I had to 
break away. 

Now here I was again, this time standing in thin trees near the 
edge of the slope, about halfway between Dhain and Lapri, looking 
down on the gorge road from India. The little village of Gidha 
nestled halfway up the farther slope. A motley gang of local men 
surrounded me and I examined them carefully. This was the kind of 
thing the American magazines would love, if only I could afford to 
let them take photographs here. I could see the captions now . . . 
Jungle Natives Fight for Freedom! Intrepid Guerrillas Prepare to 
Defend Homeland against Armed Might of India! . . . Tall hawk- 
faced ratmouthed Savage (see cut) English mystery man prepares 
secret hideout. In my mind's eye I picked out the men who would 
make the most fierce photographs. 

I sighed regretfully. To work ... I had twenty men from Lapri, 
Dhain, Gidha, and other villages farther west. Five had modern 
rifles, and all knew how to use them. I had personally given them a 
course, back in the jungles, earlier in the day. That was a waste of 
my time— any lance naik could have done it— but Gokal Singh had 
protested his inability to spare me even a lance naik, so I did it 
myself. 

The men were mostly ignorant and raw, but most had a spark of 
patriotic feeling, and one or two some basic knowledge of the prob- 
lem. I had just appointed a wizened old bird from Dhain as the 
over-all commander. Age is always important in India, and he was a 
skilled shikari and poacher, though getting a little creaky in the 
joints. I called him the Marquess, as he looked rather like Reading, 
the ex- Viceroy. 

Now I gathered them all closer, made them squat down, and began 
to talk. "This is where you have to work, when the time comes," I 
said, pointing down at the gorge. "The Indian soldiers will have to 
use that road for their tanks and trucks, and for the men who march. 
They cannot defend every inch of it— it is too long, the jungle is too 
thick. On the other hand, you can't stop them. They are too strong 
and you are too weak . . ." 

A few faces showed a glimmer of understanding. The rest stared 
down in wooden puzzlement, mixed with alarm. I told them they 
must organize into groups of three or four. They must hit and run 
away— snipe a single man here, blow up a culvert there. They must 

*55 



prepare several caches in the jungle, where they could hide ammuni- 
tion, rifles, and also wounded men. I told the Marquess that each 
group was to know only the site of its own cache, so that they 
could not even by accident betray the others. (Or under pressure, I 
added to myself.) The Marquess raised one wrinkled and hooded 
eyelid, like a sardonic cobra. The object was to delay the Indians, 
and to force them to use more and more soldiers on guarding their 
communications, so that there would be fewer when they debouched 
on the plain, where our own army would meet them. 

More ... we wanted information about little-known tracks 
through the hills south of Dhain, and north of the northern escarp- 
ment. We must know which paths the Indians used, how many men, 
how fast, any tanks or vehicles. I would set up an army post at Sakti, 
ten miles west. All information must be sent there by the quickest 
means. 

We began a series of small exercises. I pointed out a tree or a rock 
as a pair of Indian sentries. The Marquess divided the men into 
groups, and I watched while group after group did a quick stalk and 
pretended to kill and escape. I showed them how to cover each 
other, so that men in hiding protected the man in motion. We 
examined various sites for caches and discussed their advantages and 
disadvantages. 

Finally, I arranged a practical ambush. A broken stream bed ran 
steeply down the hill in a northeasterly direction, from somewhat 
below Dhain toward the Pattan Rest House and the Shakkar. It was 
a steepish run of rock, in step and fall, not very wide. I would wait 
at the top, and after half an hour begin to walk down it, alert. I was 
supposed to represent a patrol of six men. The guerrillas, acting in 
concert under the Marquess, were to ambush me before I reached the 
jeep road at the foot of the hill. They went off down the nullah and 
I lit a cheroot. 

It was time Sumitra and I got married. There were still mysteries 
and depths in her which I could not get at, and, I felt, never would 
until marriage gave her full confidence. I suppose there has never 
been a mistress who is not always aware of the relationship's im- 
permanence, and therefore holds back something vital, which she can 
salvage from the wreck. I had also come to appreciate the depth of 
her involvement with her native soil (and mine, incidentally). Her 
years in Europe and America had passed like a shallow stream, and, 

i 5 6 



except for the occasions when she still wore Western clothes, might 
never have existed. I ground my teeth on the cigar. We'd got to win 
our fight for Chambal's independence. Otherwise we would both be 
in exile, forever ... if I did not end in front of a firing squad. 

I glanced at my watch, stubbed out the cheroot, and started down 
the nullah. I kept my eyes open, but not unnaturally so. Let's see, I 
thought, a section would come down here with two men in front, 
one on each side of the nullah and as high up as they could get; 
then would come the section commander and the Bren gun team; 
and two more men would follow thirty yards or so behind. The 
ambush must take account of all those. They'd probably forget to 
allow for the dispersion, rush in on the front men, and get caught 
by the two at the back . . . 

A slight change of light, from a reddish matt of rock to a darker 
sheen, caught my eye a little right and ahead of me. Now, would I 
have seen that? Before I had made up my mind whether to start 
pretended firing, a man materialized from the shadows, a rifle in his 
hand. It was Chadi, my old shikari from Pattan. A sound behind me 
made me turn my head and I saw Mitoo and young Ganesha. Both 
were armed. 

"Chadi!" I said. "My friends! Is the village hungry again? And I 
see you have rifles. A little old, but good." They were of an obsolete 
mark, obviously from Indian arsenal stocks. I smiled. 

Chadi did not smile. He said, "Sahib, you are on Indian soil." 

"Well," I said, "we'd probably have to get a map and a surveyor's 
instrument to make sure of that, wouldn't we?" 

The border between Chambal and India ran due north and south 
here, across this very hill. I realized about now that the three had 
not seen or heard the Marquess. How could that be? Ah, the cunning 
old Marquess, really in the spirit of our game, had moved his party 
downhill off to the side, so that there would be no footmarks or 
crushed leaves in the nullah to attract the attention of the "Indian 
patrol." Was he within earshot? Probably not, because if he could 
hear us, these three could certainly have heard him getting into 
position. 

Chadi said, "We shall have to take you down to Pattan to the head 
constable." 

I was wearing Chambal uniform, and carrying a long thumb stick. 
Otherwise I had no weapon. It would be awkward to be dragged off 

157 



prisoner into India, whatever the legality of the matter, which would 
be impossible to prove one way or the other. Here, possession would 
be all ten points of the law. 

I had not expected this. I had an organization among the Bhilghat 
Gonds, under Gulu, but nothing in Pattan. It seemed to me that the 
Indians, knowing my close connection with the place, would be too 
much on the lookout there. But this . . . that they should have 
organized guerrillas, and from my own people! I felt cold, and mur- 
derous, but held my face under control. 

I said reproachfully, "Is this how you repay what I did for you?" 
I looked at Mitoo and Ganesha. 

Ganesha was young, and I had been a great hero to him. He 
muttered, "Surely we can let the Gora-Raja go?" 

Chadi felt the strain, but life in these hills is hard, as I had learned 
for myself. For a time I had led them toward a dream. The dream 
had collapsed. Chadi had to live. He'd taken a new allegiance. 

"I am sorry, sahib," he said quietly. "We have promised." 

I shrugged. "Let us go down then. Or would you prefer to shoot 
me here and save yourselves trouble?" 

"Don't speak like that, sahib," Mitoo wailed, "we have prom- 
ised . . ." 

I started down the nullah, hoping we would get far enough down 
for the Marquess to hear us before Chadi headed out and east, 
directly toward Pattan, which now lay almost behind our right 
shoulders. I hadn't gone ten paces when he said, "This way, sahib." 

He was as sharp as a razor, Chadi. He had realized that I knew 
perfectly well where Pattan was. Therefore, if I was heading on down 
the nullah, I must have a reason for it. 

We climbed up out of the nullah, and at the top the Marquess was 
waiting with his rifle aimed at Chadi's heart. "Don't raise your guns," 
he said in a hungry voice. "I am not alone." We heard the rest pound- 
ing up the hill then. 

The Marquess said, "You were late, sahib. I came up to see . . . 
and saw . . . and went back and told them to come . . . and 
hurried up myself. I know you, Chadi of Pattan. What are you doing 
on the earth of Chambal?" 

Chadi did not answer. The three were surrounded now. "Take 
their rifles," I ordered. Grinning, my guerrillas did so. They were 
wildly excited, their eyes shining. The boring game had turned into 
reality. I looked at the three prisoners. It would be best if they did 

i 5 8 



not return home. Nothing would more discourage the people of 
Pattan and other villages from doing police and scouting work for 
the Indians than to have it leak out that three of the best shikaris 
in the district had mysteriously disappeared. 

The Marquess was carrying the universal long-handled small- 
bladed ax, tucked now through his loincloth. He handed his rifle 
to another man and drew the ax. I stared at the three men. Young 
Ganesha was quaking with terror, though silent. These bloody 
people had betrayed me. They'd all better learn that the day of 
the pukka sahib was over. The day of Hodson and Edwardes and 
Nicholson was coming back, the day of the hard men of total 
power, instant decision, and no remorse. 

I remembered the warmth of Mitoo's wife's arms round my 
neck. These people had given me something, too. We'd shared 
everything, during time that could not be measured, and it wasn't 
their fault that that time had ended. It was the shape of the 
continuum at that point in history. 

The Marquess looked expectantly at me. I said, 'Take them to 
the jail at Sakti. They are to reach there alive and well. Understand? 
From there I will have them moved to Chambalpur as soon as pos- 
sible." 

I would have them thrown into the dungeons, to join others. 
The effect, of total disappearance, would be the same; but sooner 
or later they'd get back to their families. If the Indians won, they'd 
be released. If we won, I'd see that they were let out. The bastards 
ought to be thankful for their lives. 

The Marquess looked disgruntled and still hungry, and I said 
sharply, "Remember what I said! Without discipline we are lost 
before we begin." 

Ganesha fell to his knees. "Thank you, Gora-Raja . . . Raja, 
Gulu has been arrested." 

"Silence!" Chadi snapped. The Marquess hit him hard on the 
side of the head with the ax handle and he stumbled, and groaned, 
but recovered himself. 

Ganesha gabbled on, "Yesterday, sahib. He and a dozen others 
in Bhilghat The police went. Another man is to answer messages 
in his name, pretending ..." 

"Thank you," I said. I motioned to the Marquess. "Take them 
away, by the hill roads." 

We split up, the others going back up the nullah toward Dhain 

*59 



and I going on down alone. My mind raced and caught. 

Gulu arrested. The whole of my guerrilla organization among 
the Gonds wrecked. They must have had an eye on Gulu, after I'd 
given the D.C. a practical demonstration of my special position with 
the Gonds; but this was more definite. They had something on him. 
As he kept no papers, couldn't read, in fact, it was something else. 
I had met Gulu twice since coming to Chambal, once on the border 
near Bhilghat, once outside Lapri . . . and that time, by pure 
chance, Margaret Wood had passed, walking alone along a deserted 
path miles from anywhere. She'd seen us. Jesus Christ, the bloody 
bitch had told the Indians . . . 

I reached the road and strode fast along it toward Lapri and 
the mission. I'd fix her for good and all this time. His Suspicious 
Highness was right after all— trust nobody, nobody at all. 

At the mission bungalow I ran up the steps and knocked on the 
door. She came out smiling, an envelope in her hand. "I saw you 
coming," she said. She gave me the envelope and I took it auto- 
matically. "Do come in and . . ." 

I snapped, "You are to evacuate this mission in forty-eight hours. 
If you are not out of Chambal territory within that time you will 
be arrested and taken to the concentration camp. You will receive 
confirmation of these orders, in writing, before—" I looked at my 
watch, it was five o'clock "—before six." 

I turned and went down the steps. I heard her crying behind me, 
"What is the matter?" I heard her footsteps running down the 
veranda, felt her hand on my arm. "Rodney! Colonel . . . Brig- 
adier . . . what's happened? What have I done?" 

I soon outdistanced her and in Lapri stood over Faiz Mohammed 
while he wrote out the order. The Nawab had long since given 
senior civil and military officials authority to put any suspicious or 
traitorous people into a concentration camp, without inquiry or trial. 
I watched him walk down the road to the mission bungalow to 
deliver it. Then I got into the Bentley and drove back to Cham- 
balpur. 

There I had a dozen people to tell, a dozen moves to make to 
counteract the effects of the action against Gulu. It was very serious 
indeed, because I had counted on the Gonds, with their jungle 
craft, posing a real threat to the Indians' southern flank. Gond 
quiescence would release at least two more Indian battalions to 

160 



oome against us. And there was an air of urgency liberated by the 
act, because the Indians would not have moved until they were on 
the point of major action. Otherwise they'd merely be giving us 
time to start all over again. 

I did not reach the house until midnight, and only then re- 
membered the letter Margaret Wood had given me. It was dated 
from Bhowani the day before. It was from Max. It began: My dear 
Rodney, Some friends and I got together a week ago, and agreed 
that your tremendous talents are being wasted in your present 
job . . . 

The letter went on to offer me any one of five jobs: secretary 
of a club in Calcutta, another in Bombay; secretary of a racecourse 
somewhere else; top executive positions with two big industrial 
firms. It continued: 

We have a good deal of influence, and can assure you not only 
that the jobs mentioned are all available and held for you, but that 
we can ensure that any previous misunderstandings between you 
and the Government of India will be forgotten. 

In view of that last paragraph, Max must have got onto some of 
my I.C.S. friends. Senior Indians of the I.C.S. were quite indispen- 
sable, and the government knew it. Swallowing my peccadilloes, if 
the I.C.S. demanded it, would be no trouble at all. 

The letter ended. We— all your friends— do most sincerely urge 
you to accept one of these offers, and as soon as possible. 

Sumitra came in while I was reading, and leaned over my shoulder. 
When I had finished I put the letter back in its envelope, and burned 
it carefully in the grate, where a small fire sputtered— it was winter 
now, and cold at night. Sumitra said, "Why do you burn the letter? 
Don't you want to keep it, for later ... in case?" 

I said, "Max has to be protected against his own better nature. 
He could get into a lot of trouble, writing letters like that to 
English adventurers in the pay of the Muslim despot . . ." 

I thought what a damned good man Max was. Max, my enemy. 
Max, the cuckold. Max, too big to think of that, only that I had 
shared a love for all that he loved, and I had lost. Max, oh, Max, I 
thought, what a God-damned bloody tragedy. 

"What sort of a day did you have?" Sumitra asked. I leaned 
back and she gently rubbed her fingers through my hair, messaging 
my scalp, leaning over the back of the chair, her breasts warm and 

161 



firm against my head. I thought, She talks as if I'd just come back 
from the City on the 5:06. And what have I done? Crawled about 
the jungles, nearly had three men executed, thrown a woman out 
of her house. I began to tell her, and when it was over, drowsily, 
lovingly, we went to bed. Got to ask her to marry me, I told myself 
sleepily. This must go on forever. 



162 



Ctapter 13 



The daily bus left Lapri at seven in the morning, reaching the capital 
four hours later. Margaret Wood, huddled among the zenana pas- 
sengers in the back, was grateful that she was a woman, for the 
lightly drawn curtains, shielding the ladies from the public gaze, 
also gave some protection against the bitter chill of the upland 
morning. Later, exhaust fumes filtering up through the floorboards, 
and the swaying of the bus on the many corners beyond Sakti, made 
two of the women sick, and she had a hard time holding down her 
own queasiness. Usually, on these buses, the women chattered like 
magpies all the way, and she would be asked innumerable questions 
about her family and children; but the tension of the past months 
had seeped into the people's hearts. Few talked, and they in low tones. 

When the bus reached the alley which was its terminal in Cham- 
balpur, she climbed down and walked stiffly out into the bustling 
street. There she stopped. Men passed her, gaping inquisitively. The 
dark eyes of women examined her through the mesh of burqas. She 
stood like a rock, awash in a half-tide. 

She realized that during her sleepless night she had decided to 

i6 ? 



come to Chambalpur to protest her banishment from Lapri, but 
she had not thought whom she was going to protest to. The govern- 
ment? Yes, but who in the government? The only man Henry had 
known was the Home Minister, and she could not remember his 
name. Two or three home ministers might have come and gone 
since Henry died. The army then. It was an army order that Faiz 
Mohammed had handed her. No, it was the Nawab's own order, 
but given "on account of the military emergency." 

Rodney himself had done it, and she bowed her head in the 
street, remembering the sickening blow, like a kick in the stomach. 
She had hurried out warm and expectant, and seen his face, cold 
and harsh. ... He was a brigadier, and worked in Army Head- 
quarters. It was him she must face, whatever the pain. 

She beckoned to a passing tonga and told the man to take her 
to Army Headquarters. Sentries stopped the tonga at the gate and 
she filled out a form, and a chuprassy shuffled off with it. She waited. 
Half an hour passed and the chuprassy returned. 

"Nahin hai," he said, twisting his hand, palm upward. Where had 
he gone, where could she find him? The man said something in 
Urdu which she could not understand. She asked him to repeat it 
and he said, in English, "Millitairy see-crut" and grinned tremen- 
dously. 

The tonga driver, who had been dozing in his seat, the tonga 
parked under a tree, called out, "Who does she want to see?" 

"The English brigadier sahib." 

"I know where he lives. I can take you to his house. He may 
be there." 

She climbed back into the tonga and the driver lashed the gaunt 
pony into movement. Rodney was living with that woman, the Rani 
of Kishanpur. The Indian papers had said so openly at the time 
she first went to Chambalpur. Margaret had no wish to meet her 
again. They had met once, exchanging a few polite words when she 
and her husband passed through Lapri on the way to Pattan. When 
she went through later, alone, Margaret had only seen her pass. 
Well, it was Rodney she had to talk to. The Rani would hardly 
force herself into such an interview. 

The tonga stopped in front of a big house facing the lake. She 
paid off the driver and walked up the steps. A servant came, took 
her name, and left her on the wide veranda. The front doors were 

164 



open, the tatty screen pulled up, and she looked into a marble 
hall hung with Bokhara rugs and aglitter with brass ornaments. The 
chuprassy returned at once, but stopped inside the hall, holding 
back a curtain. The Rani of Kishanpur glided through the doorway 
and toward her. Her violet sari made Margaret's own khaki skirt 
and white blouse seem sordid. 

"Mrs. Wood . . . Rodney is not in Chambalpur and won't be 
back until evening, I'm afraid. Can I help you?" She smiled pleas- 
antly. 

Margaret said stiffly, "It is Brigadier Savage I wish to speak to, 
Your Highness." 

The Rani said, "It's about the order to leave Lapri, I suppose? 
I know something about that. I can't promise to be able to help, 
I'm afraid . . . but won't you please come in? You look pale. You 
must have come up by bus. That's an experience to upset anyone." 

"I didn't think you would have traveled much by bus," Margaret 
heard herself saying and knew that her face was still set in frozen 
dislike. 

The Rani smiled again. "Not much— but enough. I have taken 
many bus rides since coming here. You hear a lot, in buses, if you 
are hidden under an old burqa and let the other women talk, as 
they're only too pleased to do. . . . Please, Mrs. Wood, let us be 
sensible. You have nowhere to go, you look hungry, Rodney won't 
be back till six at the earliest. Please come in." 

Margaret finally managed to say it: "Thank you." She followed 
the other woman into the hall, through the curtain again held back 
by the bowing servant, and into a big drawing room. A voice was 
speaking in Urdu from a radio in the corner and the Rani listened 
to it a moment before switching it off. "Mr. Roy again," she said, 
"giving me another personal mention, too. I sometimes wonder 
whether the propaganda value of my coming here has not been out- 
weighed by India's ability to focus people's dislike on me as a 
personal symbol of treachery to the cause— their cause. Me and 
Rodney— the Traitress and the Foreigner. . . . The rather ornate 
furnishings are not my taste," she added with a gesture. "This is one 
of the Nawab's guest houses. Make yourself comfortable. I'll get us 
something to drink." 

She walked out of the room, her hips swaying, and Margaret heard 
her voice, faint, from farther along the airy house. 

165 



The pictures on the walls were dreadful Italian oleos, and a huge 
imitation-Rubens nude hung over the fireplace. There was a low 
coffee table, and a Buhl cabinet that clashed with everything else in 
the room, some chairs and sofas, the radio, and a locked roll-top 
desk. And on the desk a big picture of Rodney in a silver frame. She 
stood in front of it. It was recently taken, an enlargement of a can- 
did camera shot of him in his Chambal brigadier's uniform, smiling 
at someone off the picture to the left, his hair wind-blown and the 
clear mark of suntan in the light values of his face. He looked won- 
derful, there, and so happy, but too thin round the jaw and cheeks, 
as though he were not eating enough and working too hard. This 
woman did not feed him properly. 

She did not hear the soft glide of the Rani's returning footsteps 
and did not know how long she had been standing there, in the door. 
The first that Margaret knew was her voice: "He is a man." The 
voice was sad. 

Are you going to get married? Do you love him? Aren't you 
ashamed of leaving your husband? Why don't you go back to him? 
A hundred accusing questions flew to the tip of Margaret's tongue; 
but she said only, "Yes." 

The Rani changed her tone. "Do you know why Rodney gave 
you that order so suddenly?" she asked matter-of-factly. 

Margaret sank onto a sofa. "I have no idea," she began formally. 
Then the memory returned, the cold dislike on his face, the ice in 
her heart, spreading so that she thought she would never be able to 
move again. The words poured out: "I don't, I don't! Once, months 
ago, I said I'd fix him, but that was when he was in Pattan and I 
... I didn't understand him, I didn't know him. He was so different 
from anyone I'd met, and Henry only just dead. But I didn't try 
to fix him, I didn't do anything. I explained all that when I was ill 
and he saved my life, and . . ." 

"He saved your life?" the Rani said. 

"Didn't he tell you about it?" 

She could not believe that those days of her illness had meant so 
little to him. 

"He saved my life," she repeated. Her hands weaved and knotted 
on her handkerchief. "I suppose he doesn't remember, but he did, 
and I did explain it to him and I thought he believed me, and then 
. . . and then . . ." 

166 



"Here, my dear, have a drink." The Rani poured out a small glass 
of whisky from a decanter that had appeared on the table. Had the 
servant come and gone while she was talking, and she seen nothing? 
She could see nothing now, except the Rani's face, and feel nothing, 
except the whisky burning her throat. 

The Rani said, "He gave the order because he believed you had 
betrayed Gulu." 

"Gulu?" she said. "Who's Gulu? I've never heard of him." 

"I didn't think you would have. He's a Gond chief, from the 
Indian side of the border. He was working with Rodney to prepare 
the Gonds to rise against the Indians when the time came. Rodney 
had just heard that the Indians have arrested him." 

"Is he a small very black old man, wrinkled skin and . . . ? He 
must be the man I saw once with Rodney, near a jungle footpath up 
the hill behind Lapri. But I never said a word to anyone!" 

"I know you didn't," the Rani said sadly, "but Rodney believes 
you did. ... I wouldn't worry too much if I were you. I think the 
clash between Chambal and India is going to come very soon, and 
then everything will be different. If India wins, it won't do you any 
harm to have it believed that you did give the information . . ." 

"But I didn't," she cried. "And I don't care what the Indians 
believe if he believes that I was spying on him." She collected her- 
self. "Another missionary is coming from England, at last. He is due 
in Bombay the beginning of next month. I only have to last out 
that long, and then . . ." 

"And then what?" the Rani asked. 

"The mission will . . ." 

"No— What about you?" 

Margaret wound and unwound her handkerchief. "I ... I don't 
know. I was just waiting, staying." 

"And you were as near him as you could get?" 

"Yes!" She looked up quickly, but the other woman's face held 
no gleam of truimph or discovery. It was as unhappy as her own. 

The Rani said, "You are a trained nurse. How would you like to 
run a nurses' school?" 

Her professional interest was touched. She said, "You can't start 
a school, just like that. It has to be part of a hospital." 

"There would be no difficulty in getting you a post as senior 
matron of a hospital, and all the facilities you wanted to turn it into 

167 



a first-class teaching hospital for nurses as well." 

"Where? Here?" 

The Rani hesitated. "In Chambal— yes. If India succeeds ... my 
direct influence will be nothing, but I can still manage that for you, 
anywhere." 

Margaret burst out, "But what will happen to him, if Chambal 
loses? India is so strong. Mr. Roy has openly threatened him, he has 
so many enemies, he has done so many things against India— oh, 
they're all in the papers, even more than he has done, probably. 
Where can he go?" 

The Rani said, "I'm afraid he will not live to be worried by that 
question. He is going to fight, to the end. If he does not die under 
Indian guns— Indian guns, O God!— he will die by a knife wound 
—someone here stabbing him in the back. . . . And there are many 
kinds of knife wounds." 

"It's your fault," Margaret whispered. "If it weren't for you, he 
wouldn't be here, fighting this hopeless battle." 

The Rani's huge eyes burned with a dry flame. "Some think that 
it was the other way round— that he brought me here, Mrs. Wood. 
That if it were not for him, I would still be with my husband, and, 
through him, attached to the Indian cause. . . . You love him. Don't 
attempt to deny it, please. I saw your face looking at the picture 
there." 

Margaret said, "Yes. For a long time now I've known that Rodney 
is all I have to live for. All I have to live in." 

"What are you waiting for? Me to die? My God, you are like a 
vulture sitting on a tree." 

"I do not think you will stay with him. As you did not with the 
others, in Europe. I think, soon, that he will be alone again, and 
lonely." 

Sumitra gasped, then said slowly, "I suppose that is deserved. I 
can see you will have him, if he lives. You have the tenacity . . ." 

Margaret said, "I told you. I have nothing else to live for. But 
he does not love me. He is not aware of me, except that I betrayed 
his friend. I know him well enough to know that he will never 
forgive a betrayal." 

Sumitra's hand trembled so that the jeweled wristlet shivered and 
clinked on her wrist. Her breathing came in gasps. 

Margaret said, "I will stay here until I see him. He must know 

168 



that I did not betray him." 

"You must go," Sumitra cried, jumping to her feet. "About Gulu 
—I shall tell him myself. Yes, yes, I promise. What is it to me? 
Within a week it will be settled, one way or the other. He will be 
dead ... he will be mine forever ... or he will never be mine, 
and this petty nothing about you and Gulu will be buried, forgotten. 
... I shall order your lunch now, and afterward the chauffeur will 
drive you back to Lapri in my car. You will receive an order to 
Faiz Mohammed delaying your eviction for a week. . . . Good-by." 

She stood well away, and briefly joined her palms, then turned 
and ran out of the room, her sari rustling like a dying wind in the 
trees. 



169 



Ctapter 14 



"First, we will hear syndicate solutions to the problem. Then Briga- 
dier Savage will bring out the main lessons, and I will sum up." 

General Gokal Singh sat down and I stood up, leaning on my 
pointer staff. We were running a cloth-model study based on an 
Indian attack up the Lapri gorge. I had thirty senior officers of the 
Chambal Army there, divided into six syndicates. The cloth model, 
set out on the floor of a huge room that had been a reception hall, 
was about 30 by 60 feet and gave a very fair representation of the 
ground between Lapri and Sakti. After explaining the locations of 
our own troops, and two different versions of what the enemy might 
be doing, and putting out various flags and toys on the model to 
represent the troops, I posed the problem: How and where to engage 
the enemy? An hour later General Gokal made his little speech and 
I called on Colonel Nazr Ahmed to begin. 

After the first two sentences I knew I didn't have to listen to him. 
My mind could run about among its numberless worries. Mid- 
January and our affairs fast coming to a head. The Indians were 
ostentatiously strengthening their garrisons along our northern 

170 



borders. Prince Afif and I were convinced it was a feint. There was 
too much desert up there, too many miles of nothing, all open to 
our excellent air force. Gokal Singh, in command of the corps which 
was our only striking force, wasn't so sure, and we were having a 
hard time preventing him moving the armor and part of the in- 
fantry northward. I said flatly that the Indians would not come from 
the north. Gokal said with pointed politeness that the responsibility 
was not mine. I ground my teeth. 

Our defense forces were standing by, some at thirty minutes' notice, 
the rest at four hours'. The morning cold was like a razor these days, 
until the sun rose. Then the shadows retreated fast, withdrawing 
like an army across the empty courtyards, leaving the bare stones 
bathed in dry golden light. 

Two more syndicates spoke— unimaginative nothings. I called on 
the next. A young Rajput major stood up. "Our object," he said, "is 
to draw the enemy's armor into battle piecemeal against our own 
armor, concentrated, and supported by all our antitank guns." 

I glanced up. This fellow had the idea. I made a brief note on 
my pad. The young major went on. He was good, at least on the 
theory of it. 

The other syndicates followed. My opinion had been better ex- 
pressed by Churchill: "The answer is in the plural, and they bounce." 

. . . One of the fealty rajahs in the northern part of the State 
had refused to move his private army unless the Nawab agreed to 
transfer a few thousand acres of desert from a neighboring barony to 
his. That quarrel had been going on for three centuries and now he 
saw his chance. The Nawab had flown up to beg his rajahs to be 
reasonable; or, possibly, to throw them both into the dungeons. 

L. P. Roy had been on the radio, swearing that India would never 
use force in the solution of its problems. Nevertheless, India's 
patience was exhausted. Chambal's provocation, Chambal's suppres- 
sion of its people, Chambal's aggression ... 

Margaret Wood was still at Lapri, saved by Sumitra's soft heart. 
Gulu was still in an Indian jail. 

The last syndicate gave its solution. I made a few more notes and 
began to dissect what had been said. 

The vital point was obviously that Max had to get his armor out 
of the Lapri Gorge and up onto the Sakti Plain, by one steep, twist- 
ing road, in rocky jungle-covered hills. Numerically, our armor about 

171 



equaled his. If we could attack him, with all our armor, at the moment 
when the leading half of his tanks had come out into the plain and 
the rest were still in the gorge, we would stand an excellent chance of 
destroying him completely— because he would either have to retreat 
or push forward the rest of his armor and let us destroy that in its 
turn. Max was no bloody fool, and there were many maneuvers he 
could pull to circumvent us. . . . 

I won't go into any more detail. Of the six syndicates only one, 
the young major's, had produced a sound plan, because only he really 
understood what we were trying to do. Few syndicates had thought 
to use our air forces at all, and only two had used them properly. 

My suppressed anger carried me into some harsh words. Why 
hadn't all these matters been studied for the past weeks and months? 
Because Gokal Singh insisted that secrets would leak out, plans be- 
come known. Yes, but there were ways round that, and anything 
would have been better than to leave these semitrained officers in 
any doubt of their exact objective. 

When I had finished a brigadier stood up, his face taut with 
spleen. "My opinions are entitled to more respect than you have 
given them," he said. "I have twenty-eight years' service . . ." 

"So had Frederick the Great's mule," I snapped. The brigadier 
turned pale, and I expected Gokal to rebuke me. He certainly should 
have; and I would have acceped it and apologized. He did not and I 
thought, even in my fury, He wants dissension. 

A second cousin of the Nawab got up. Oh, God, here it comes! 
"Since I am of the Blood Royal, I must be right . . ." It wasn't as 
bad as that. He wanted to know why I had not given the place of 
honor to the horsed cavalry squadron of the Nawab's Bodyguard. 

Gokal summed up. He played both sides against the middle in a 
masterly appraisal in which he supported my solution in every 
particular, but ended by pointing out that the battle might not be 
fought anywhere near the Sakti Plain. Once again I suffered a sharp 
spasm of doubt, of suspicion. If we didn't fight on the Sakti Plain 
we would not fight at all. The Chambal Army had its virtues, but 
it definitely did not have the training or the confidence to fight after 
a long withdrawal. 

I thanked General Gokal profusely and hurried out. I was meeting 
him again in fifteen minutes at the C-in-C's office. I had to rush 
upstairs and collect a secret file from my safe. The lock had been 

172 



tampered with, and I swore, and congratulated myself on keeping 
all really important papers in the safe at home. Besides, this was very 
unlikely to be the work of an enemy agent. It was a henchman of the 
Nawab's, or of Gokal's, sent to learn what I had said to one about 
the other, and vice versa. 

In his office the old C-in-C, General Prince Afif, was squatting on 
cushions on the carpet, being fanned by a pretty girl and smoking 
an ornate hookah. The girl was some sort of slave. Oh, yes, slavery had 
been officially outlawed in Chambal a century earlier, to please Queen 
Victoria, but it still flourished. 

Afif was a delightful old man and the soul of courtesy. He had made 
his battle plan: he was going to drive out to the fight in his Rolls- 
Royce, the Rolls drawing a horsebox containing his favorite charger. 
He would wear the full war costume of the Bokharis, and would 
charge waving his scimitar. At the funeral a mullah would recite the 
appropriate chapter from the Holy Koran. 

The business at hand was unfortunately more complicated. Gokal 
and I squatted on the carpet, facing the Prince. The old boy passed 
round the mouthpiece of the hookah. 

I began the negotiating. I've forgotten now what the problem was, 
except that it ought to have been solved three months ago by a 
junior captain. Now a general, a lieutenant general, and a brigadier 
thrashed it like a dog, for an hour. 

We wrangled and fiddled on, the cloud of hookah smoke thicken- 
ing and fine perspiration beading the girl's bare torso. Next we had to 
appoint a new paymaster for the guerrillas. X wouldn't do because he 
was already responsible for meat procurements— a lucrative post. Y 
had trodden on the Nawab's great-uncle's cousin's mother's nephew's 
toe at a reception in 1898. Not him, Allah forfend! . . . The cen- 
turies surrounded me, not in succession but all at the same time, in a 
frightening jumble. I was De Boigne, teeth set, trying to convince 
Scindia that if he didn't patch up his feud with Holkar, both of them 
would be swallowed by the Peshwa. I was Dupleix, listening while 
two maharajahs squabbled over precedence and Clive marched. I 
was a lone Amir of Sind, shouting, 'The English, they come!" to a 
tentful of torpid despots while Napier brought his troops into the 
battle line. The disciplined combination of intrigue, diplomacy, and 
brute force was on the other side, down there with Max and Roy and 
Nehru. They were Warren Hastings, Stringer Lawrence, and Eyre 

J 73 



Coote; I, squatting on this carpet, was the old, free, chaotic India . . . 

We agreed on a name. Next problem. 

Poor old Afif closed his eyes in pain. We were giving him a 
headache. 

Gokal stated his case. I stated mine. . . . Wrangle, wrangle, 
wrangle. I had, in effect, won on the first problem, and I knew the 
C-in-C would rule for Gokal this time, and he did. 

Military police to control traffic. There weren't enough. There 
ought to be. Something must be done. . . . What? 

Two hours later Gokal and I stood up. Afif remained squatting, 
looking very much his age. A chuprassy sidled in with a signal form, 
and handed it to him. He fumbled around for his spectacles. The 
girl found them and gave them to him. He put them on. He read the 
signal. He read it again, aloud. " Tanks, trucks, and infantry moving 
from Bhowani toward Bijoli . . . Deciphered at 11:30 a.m.' . . . 
Why wasn't this given to me sooner?" he said querulously. 

"Prince," the chuprassy whined, "you were in conference. Your 
orders . . ." 

It was a strict rule, true enough. No one could disturb the Prince 
when he had the girl and the hookah in there. It was now two o'clock 
and I was ready to die of hunger. 

"You will move your troops, then?" the Prince said. 

Gokal scratched his chin. "Perhaps we should first inform His 
Highness . . . ?" 

"We can't reach him till evening," I broke in. "He's spending the 
day out hunting with the Rajah at Maragan. We have his signature, 
approving this movement as soon as we get this information." 

Gokal said, "It is a big decision to make without His Highness's 
knowledge. Action might precipitate war." 

I said, "Sir, inaction might precipitate some executions." I saluted, 
and went out. 

In my office I told the chuprassy to get me food, quickly. The 
C-in-C sent me a note, telling me that he had ordered the troop 
movements, in writing, and I felt a little better. After eating I drove 
out to the barracks and found remarkably little turmoil. I was con- 
gratulating the Chambal Army, in my mind, on a higher state of 
training than I had thought it possessed, when I stopped behind a 
group of officers, under the brigadier who had been so angry at the 
cloth model. I found that they were conducting an exercise. It had 

J 74 



only just begun, and they were doing it with live tanks. I counted 
forty of them out in the plain a couple of miles away. 

I took the brigadier aside, saluting punctiliously and using "sir" 
every other word, and asked him whether he had yet received the 
order to move. "Yes," he said, his eyes glinting nastily, "but we are 
to finish this exercise first. After all, remember Drake finishing his 
game of bowls . . ." 

"Yes, sir," I said, "but I understand that the C-in-C gave definite 
orders for the move to begin at once." By God, over an hour had 
passed since the order went out. The leading troops should have been 
ten miles out. 

The brigadier became ugly. "This is my business, Savage." 

I said, "Sir, I assure you that Prince Afif has given his personal and 
most stringent orders to move at once, according to Plan Panipat. 
Any disobedience is likely to be punished by death." 

"That's very funny," the brigadier said, with a wolfish grin. "Gen- 
eral Gokal told me personally, ten minutes ago, to continue my 
exercise." 

That's when I became positive that Gokal was on the other side. 
The commander of our striking force! 

It was a moment of doubt and indecision. All at once the full 
weight of the situation came upon my shoulders. What was I doing, 
involved with these bunglers and traitors and idiots? How was it 
possible that I stood here, prepared to fight and kill Max, my friend, 
to whom I had handed my Colors, my country, my love? What pos- 
sible hope of success was there, and even if we won, what possible 
hope of improvement, of progress? From all that I had seen, an inde- 
pendent Chambal, loosened from the stringent supervision of Eng- 
land, would go back to those jolly days when a Nawab could burn a 
couple of dancing girls alive for some minor peccadillo. (It was 
undoubtedly his right, since he was sovereign— but that had not pre- 
vented the viceroy of the time from summarily removing him from 
the gaddi and appointing his son instead.) 

I should leave this bloody mess at once, go to Sumitra and ask her 
what was to be done. Hold a council of war with her, and Hayden, 
and the few other Englishmen in Chambal . . . 

I remembered that all this had happened before: to Clive in the 
mango grove before Plassey. If Clive, the boldest man India ever 
knew, had had his moment of doubt, surely I could be allowed mine? 

*75 



The thought of Gokal and his friends winning their victory exactly 
as they planned, from inertia, was too much for me. What a laugh 
they'd have, in the years to come, over how they'd hoodwinked the 
stupid Englishman! 

I drove furiously into the barrack area. Gokal had vanished— east 
toward Sakti, it was said. I found two dozen tank transporters drawn 
up on the polo field, waiting. I told the major in command to take 
his transporters out to Brigadier Narain Singh and say, as from the 
C-in-C, "Load! Move!" Then I went to the C-in-C's house and got 
him to send a personal order to the brigadier— to all officers of the 
corps— to get going. Then I drove back out to the barracks and 
watched for two hours while the order was obeyed. At five o'clock the 
movement was in full swing. Where now? Where was the focal point? 

As far as I knew there'd been no diplomatic demarche, no ulti- 
matum from India. We must get hold of the Nawab and bring him 
back to the capital. We must expect news that Indian troops were also 
advancing closer to our northern border. I must prevent the Nawab 
or the C-in-C detaching any part of our armor to face that threat. I 
decided that my place, for the moment, was here in Chambalpur. 

I went to the palace and found Hayden, the ex-I.C.S. Englishman 
the Nawab had hired as constitutional adviser. There was some com- 
motion in the streets and an unusual number of police about. I was 
not surprised to hear that half an hour earlier the Indian National 
Congress had issued a proclamation, calling on the people of Chambal 
to resist the Nawab's tyranny. Hayden had somehow contacted the 
Nawab, who was already on his way back. 

Hayden said, "Five minutes ago the Home Minister ordered the 
arrest of Dunawal and all his crowd." 

Dunawal was head of the pro-Indian Congress group in Chambal. 
We had refrained from arresting him, thus far, in order to avoid 
provoking India. 

Hayden said, "All India Radio announced the arrest twenty min- 
utes ago. ... It was all fixed in December. He was to take out an 
illegal procession, and force us to arrest him, on such-and-such a 
signal. He got it, he did it, we arrested him." 

"What now?" I asked. 

He indicated a mass of paper on his table. "Preparing this cable to 
the United Nations. It'll go off as soon as the Nawab arrives." 

"And what will the UN do?" 

176 



He shrugged. "Just wnat they did in Kashmir." 

"Pakistan?" I asked. 

He lit a cigarette. "On the edge of bankruptcy. Their only real use 
was as a threat. Bluff, if you like. Nehru is calling it. Look, you go 
and get a good night's rest. I'll see that you are told if anything hap 
pens or they try to do something silly with the army." 

I drove home. 

When I walked up the steps into the house the doors were open, 
and I left them like that, as I usually did. Sumitra was waiting for 
me in the hall, and the first thing she did even before kissing me was 
to go and close them. At once it became quieter in the house, and 
the load on my back began to lighten. I leaned on her, my hand on 
her shoulder, and she guided me like a sick man to the drawing room. 
As we entered the room she left me and walked over to the radio. 
Someone was making an angry speech, and probably the speech 
piled more fuel around us, ready for the spark that invisible demons 
were even then carrying down from Indra's Abode of the Thunder- 
bolt. At that moment I could not care. As the voice hiccuped into 
silence in the middle of a sentence I sank back into a chair and 
closed my eyes. 

It took me all the early part of the evening merely to return to a 
full awareness of myself as a human being with ten fingers, ten toes, 
one nose, two ears, and the rest. I bathed and changed, I know. I ate, 
I know, but did not record it until afterward when the sense of well- 
being that surrounded me included, I noted, a well-filled belly and a 
glass of liqueur brandy on the coffee table. I noted, properly then, 
the closed doors and the tumed-off radio. For this night she and I 
would be alone. Let it be so. 

Later we walked together to my bedroom, she now leaning against 
me, my arm round her waist and under her breast, her legs languid 
and her pace voluptuous. In the bedroom, having undressed myself, 
I unfastened the knot of her sari and she stood like Niobe, her eyes 
slightly averted and downcast, while the heavy silk slid slowly down 
the coppery satin of her thighs. I loosened her choli, and she ex- 
tended her arms slightly so that I might the more easily draw it off 
them. 

There are many degrees of love and sometimes it is easy to know 
what degree you are experiencing at a particular moment— as when 
the slim column of a woman's neck is all tenderness, all beauty, 

177 



nothing else; as when the rough texture of her bush and the slippery 
passage between, contrasted with the daintiness of the underclothes 
she may still be wearing, jolts you with the electricity of desire; as 
when tired hands work for you, tired eyes search for the aches that 
they can soothe in body or soul, and you know only the dependence 
of love; as when, standing together against sorrow, there is only the 
dignity of love. 

This was not such a moment, classifiable into its category, but one 
of the others, rare and so total that there is no experience like it ex- 
cept probably death, when all the degrees and kinds are fused into 
one, when you are overwhelmed by the simultaneous flooding over 
of every channel of your being. I saw her eyes, large, the lashes curled 
upward, brimming with the Madonna's bliss. I felt, pouring into me 
from her brain, her deep respect for me. Her generous spirit over- 
flowed with no more and no less of grandeur than overflowed the 
secretions of her loins, soaking the rose petals between. The twin 
awareness of shared danger and affection thrust into my heart no less 
and no more than did the rigid, extended nipples crowning her full 
breasts. I could not tell, when I poured the liquid essence of my love 
into her, whether it was the commonplace of animal husbandry, the 
thing every bull has done to every cow since the world began, or 
whether it really was my life that I was giving her, all that I am, 
spiritual as well as physical. I know only that I was immeasurably in- 
creased—just as Christ said— by giving away all that I had. We did 
not make love, we were love. 

When finally, this state of unearthly union having continued sev- 
eral hours, we could bear to separate the bodies that had served so 
well as the vehicles of emotions far larger than they could in them- 
selves contain, I laid my hand upon hers and said, "Will you marry 
me?" 

I thought it sacrilegious to mention marriage after what we had 
shared, but in a material sense I wanted to weld the link, to let her 
know that I never would wish to escape from this mutual bondage. 

She must have felt the same, for she said, after a time, "My darling, 
is it necessary to decide that now? What more can life possibly give 
us, whether you put a ring on my finger or take me by the hand and 
lead me round the sacred fire? We have just been living in it." 

But now I was obstinately decided that the inward miracle should 
wear the conventional label for all to see and wonder at. "Please," I 
said, "I love you." 

178 



"I love you," she said, and relapsed into silence. 

After a time she said, "Would you want to take me to England?" 

"No!" I said violently. "Here, here. ... Do you want to go to 
England?" 

"No," she said, "but if you did, terribly badly ... or if you had 
to ... I could not go with you. At least, I didn't think I could before 
tonight. Now, I don't know. Could you ask me ... in the middle?" 

Neither of us could tell when such a miracle would happen again. 
And, no, I could not ask her anything "in the middle." Nothing ex- 
isted, during the miracle, outside of it— so how could I refer to some 
exterior thought or event? 

"Why England?" I said. "We are here. We have work to do here. 
There is a sink of corruption to be cleaned up before the genuine 
ideals of the Chambal people can be realized. Who knows, perhaps 
our son will be prime minister, and finish what we begin." 

She took my hand and placed the fingers to her lips, and kissed 
them sweetly. "I can't answer you now," she said. "I can say neither 
yes nor no. There is nothing left of my will or thought except you, 
and the knowledge that I touch you and lie beside you. Good night, 
sweet prince." 

I lay on my side, propped on one elbow, for a long time, examining 
the beauty that seemed to grow more troubled as the body that fed 
it sank into sleep, so that gradually the exhausted calm of the face 
began to ebb, the warm, wet lips to move without sound, the rounded 
thighs to twitch against me, and hair-fine creases to mar the broad 
forehead. Deeply stirred, and fearful, I thought I would never sleep, 
but sleep came upon me with so sudden and powerful an assault that 
I knew nothing until I awoke, tense and alert, in the hour before 
dawn. 

Where was the Nawab? What was Gokal doing down at Sakti and 
Lapri? Why did I dream our cruiser had opened fire on an Indian 
submarine? Had Max's boys crossed the frontier? What was Prince 
Afif doing? Birds chattered, and it was dark, one window wide open. 
A thin cold mist from the lake filled the world and our room, so that 
neither eyes nor any other sense could find the line of demarcation 
between the mist and the night, or between them and humanity— 
we were all one, beings with no defined limit, Sumitra, and the mist, 
and I, and the lake. 

I thought of Ratanbir. Where was the poor devil now, what think- 
ing? How was he finding it, to live with wealth stolen from my trust? 

179 



That hurt too much and I turned to curl up against Sumitra's back. 
In that instant I heard the heavy, dull crash of distant bombs, and 
the tearing roar of aircraft's multiple machine guns. 

Sumitra sprang out of bed in one motion and crouched naked, 
staring out the window. The first light of dawn was coming, and the 
mist clearing. The crash and crash of bombs came from the northeast, 
about five miles away. Two Spitfires flew low over the city and I saw 
the Indian Air Force roundels on their sides. 

I switched on the bedside radio and began to pull on the first 
clothes that came to hand— the shirt and dinner jacket I had worn 
last night. The radio was in the middle of an announcement, but it 
had nothing to do with the air raid. It was the Nawab's own voice, 
speaking in his classical Urdu. He repeated his announcement: "We, 
Mohammed Akbar Bokhari, Nawab of Chambal, being independent 
of all earthly powers, by the Grace of God, being encumbered by no 
treaty or other hindrance, do hereby declare ourselves King of 
Chambal, to be known from this moment on as His Majesty King 
Mohammed I. In the name of Allah the compassionate, the merciful! 
There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God." 

Then an announcer said it again, in Hindi, Gurjrati, and English, 
with a note that the announcement would be repeated throughout 
the day. 

"Good!" I said. "The old boy's showing his mettle." That definitely 
committed us to a break with India, even more perhaps than the air 
raid, still in progress. For the Nawab there was no turning back now, 
no chance of accepting a compromise. The proclamation definitely 
divided us into the sheep and the goats. 

The announcer said, "Attention!" This time it was about the air 
raid. Indian aircraft, without warning or shadow of justification, were 
attacking the peaceful inhabitants of Chambal. Naked aggression- 
resistance to the utmost— keep off the streets— take cover— persons 
spreading rumors will be shot— victory. 

Sumitra had dressed while I did, she also in the unsuitable finery 
of the evening before. She looked pale and frightened. "Don't worry," 
I said, hugging her. "They're not attacking the city, and they won't, 
except perhaps with leaflets. They're making a surprise raid on the 
airfield— but most of our fighters aren't there. . . . This is it, at last." 

"I'm not frightened," she said, "I'm afraid . . ." 

"What's the difference?" I began. 

180 



Knock knock knock on the door. Who's there? Servant. A man to 
see you, sahib. He says it is very urgent. What kind of man? A village 
man. The voice of the fat servant trembled with terror. Well, at least 
he hadn't run away, yet. 

"He says his name is the Marquess." 

The Marquess came in, very tired, but his old eyes gleaming. He 
said, "At ten o'clock last night, sahib, while I and another were 
hiding on the escarpment a little east of Dhain, a man came past, 
moving hurriedly and secretly. We hit him with our axes and he died. 
He was carrying this." 

He held out his hand and I took the envelope. It was addressed to 
Lieutenant General Gokal Singh in English. 

"I cannot read English," the Marquess said, "but the other with 
me has worked with the cement factory, and he could. He read it. So 
I brought it to you." 

He was wearing only a loincloth and the high-backed slippers, his 
legs gray with the patina of age and the dust of travel. 

The letter was from L. P. Roy. The text was short and clear: 
My dear General, We agree with your proposal to keep your tanks 
on the south side of the Sakti Plain. Circumstances where a sur- 
render would be proper will probably occur about 12 noon. If you will 
place yourself somewhere near the Sakti dak bungalow at that hour, 
bloodshed can be more rapidly brought to an end. We hope that 
shooting can be kept to an absolute minimum even before then. 
Sincerely. 

I folded the letter carefully and put it away in my trouser pocket. 
The old man had brought it eighty miles, through the night. God 
knows what feats of persuasion and bribery he had performed to get 
here, probably on returning supply trucks from Gokal's corps. 

"All right," I said slowly. "Wait down in the servants' quarters. 
Tell them from me to give you food and drink. Be quick." 

He said, "I must get back, sahib. There is fighting." 

I wheeled round, "Fighting? Where? When?" 

He said, "The news has not reached you? ... At midnight Indian 
soldiers left the gorge below Lapri on the north side and began to 
move west. They crossed the border there, and our men from Gidha 
ambushed some, killing two. I heard a machine gun just after we 
killed the messenger. The news of the Indian advance reached the 
post at Sakti, I know." 

181 



I said, "Eat fast, then, I shall take you back with me." 

He made a perfunctory salaam and left the room. Sumitra and I 
were alone, the sound of aircraft faint and far now. The click of the 
closing latch was like a trigger to my mind. 

I said to Sumitra, "What are you afraid of?" 

She stood taller, her back straightening and her head coming up. 

"Tell me," I repeated, "what are you afraid of?" 

A hundred incidents dropped into their proper slots, like the latch, 
click click click, so fast that there was no sense of progression, rather 
of a whole pattern falling into place at once. There had been hints, 
careless words, inexplicable actions. She had not been careful, rather 
the opposite. Love is blind. Whom the gods wish to destroy they 
first make mad. There are a dozen proverbs to meet the case. 

"You know," she said. 

Yes, I knew. 

Once, wounded by bullets, I saw my blood flowing out of me onto 
the ground, staining it a dark red, and knew that at an uncertain 
moment the continuing outpour of blood would relieve me of con- 
sciousness, which I would welcome because my wounds then hurt 
severely. While I lay temporarily bereft of awareness and pain the 
blood would still flow out onto the ground, and after another time 
I would be relieved of life, and neither awareness nor pain would ever 
come back. 

So it was now with the spirit, the soul, the whatever one calls it, 
however one defines it, which makes us human. That spirit, which 
had overflowed in love a few hours earlier, now flowed out of me onto 
the carpet, staining the whole world a pale gray. This time there 
could be no doctor, no comrade, no shell dressing to stanch the 
flow. The sharer and giver of love stood opposite me, the knife still 
in her hand. She did right to be afraid, but perhaps she did not then 
realize just why. It was not love for her that was draining out of me, 
it was my capacity for any love. 

She broke down first, and flung herself to the carpet, clasping me 
round the knees. "Rodney, my darling, I tried to show you, to let you 
know, so that you could send me away, at least protect yourself. I do 
believe in the new India. I know Chambal cannot survive alone, I 
know it cannot achieve what you believe in, because the Nawab, these 
men here, don't want it to! Your ideals are not theirs— but that 
doesn't matter. It's all over, and we can go now. I'll go anywhere with 

182 



you, do anything for you. I can protect you against Roy, anyone. I 
have the Prime Minister's own word." 

It was she who had betrayed Gulu and the Gonds of Bhilghat, and 
allowed the blame to fall on Margaret Wood. She who had kept 
Gokal in touch with Roy. She who had caused Indian agents, their 
names given to her by Roy, to be thrown into jail, so that her own 
loyalty should be above suspicion. She . . . the list was too long. 
I felt strong, strong enough to strangle her with one hand. The flow- 
ing wound still hurt, but already I could feel the waning capacity for 
feeling. Unconsciousness, sleep of the spirit, would come soon, and 
then, while it slept, its death. Cauterization might help. I must get 
to the fight, at once. 

I said, "I am going to keep my promises. Remember, sometimes, 
what might have come to us if you had kept yours. When they bow 
down and worship you, the heroine, the lady minister, the ambassador 
—remember. When you are lonely and alone— remember." 

"Rodney!" she cried. "I have a car ready. We can go, we can hide 
in any one of a dozen places and they'll never find us. The Indian 
Army will be here tomorrow. Then you'll know how hopeless it all 
was from the beginning, how everybody here tricked you and used 
you and betrayed you, far worse than I have." 

I said, "I don't want to know and, with luck, I shall not." 

She clung harder to me. Without deliberate effort, I threw her 
across the room. She crashed against the wall, fell to the floor by the 
window, and lay there, pulling herself up on her arms, weeping, her 
hair in the disarray of the night, after love. 

I strapped on my automatic and its belt, went out, locked the door 
behind me, and called the servant. I told him the Rani was under 
arrest, on the King's order, and was on no account to be let out, or 
allowed to pass any messages to anyone. I telephoned Hayden, and 
after a delay got through, and told him. I tried to ring the commander 
in chief, but was told he had left the house in his car, with an aide-de- 
camp, a groom, and his charger in the horsebox. 

I found the Marquess eating cold chicken, left over from our din- 
ner last night, watched by no one. Most of the servants were out on 
the lawn, staring at the sky. Some held leaflets in their hands. I took 
one and saw that it was an official notification from the Government 
of India, in three languages. In response to public demand, in answer 
to intolerable provocation, and to end the misrule of the Nawab the 

i8 3 



Government of India was temporarily taking over the administration 
of the State. Everyone was to keep calm, stay at home, and take no 
part in any fighting which the foolish Nawab and his wicked advisers 
might cause. 

The Bentley's tank was full. I backed her out of the garage at high 
speed, pulled her round, and waiting only for the Marquess to clamber 
in beside me, rammed her out into the road. It was about eight 
o'clock. I gunned her along the boulevard round the lake as fast as 
the cold engine would take. Beside me the grim, fearless old man 
shook with terror. I patted him on the bare knee and shouted, "Relax, 
father! If death comes to us today, it won't be in this machine." He 
closed his eyes and held on tight. 

There were no police about, and very few people, just one or two 
huddled inside doorways, staring upward or reading the leaflets. I went 
through the winding streets of the city more carefully, and at the far 
end passed through the Bhowani Gate and out into the open country. 

I pressed the accelerator against the floor boards and snugged down 
in the bucket seat, ready to drive as I'd never done. I saw a khaki 
staff car racing toward me under a cloud of dust. I recognized it as 
the air marshal's, just in time, skidded to a stop across the road and 
jumped out. I ran to his car, saluted (though hatless— a serious mili- 
tary crime) and said, "What's happened, sir?" 

"Lost three on the ground," he said. "Shot down one, chased the 
rest back. What's happening at Sakti?" 

"I don't know," I said, "but Gokal's in Indian pay." 

He swore. "That explains . . . He's just sent me a message- 
nothing to report. We have another raid reported coming in from the 
north and I've sent one squadron off to intercept it." 

I had been calculating and interpreting ever since the old guerrilla 
gave me the time and place of the earliest clashes. "I'm going to 
Sakti, sir," I said. "I don't think anything serious can happen until 
near noon, perhaps eleven. Then we'll need every plane you can 
put over." 

"All right," he said, "I'll do my best ... but the Nawab— the 
King— just called, ordering me to send all my planes north. I'm going 
in to protest." 

I saluted, got the Bentley out of the way, and we passed. I rammed 
my foot down, jammed the gears through the box without using the 
clutch. We had foreseen all this— the Indian feint attacks by land 



and air to draw our air force away from Sakti. Was the King trying 
to cut his own throat now? No, probably some bloody tinpot rajahling 
up north had telephoned that he'd go over to the Indians unless he 
was protected. Nothing more I could do about it. 

The yellow sun climbed straight ahead over the hills. The air 
rushed past cool and solid, the tires whined and even that old slow- 
breathing monster of an engine began to roar. After a minute the 
blower cut in and we went east behind a banshee shriek that sent 
chickens and children diving into the ditch and bullocks lumbering 
away across the fields. We left the Chambalpur plain, and the white 
stones marking the edges of the road flashed by. Bridges passed, the 
exhaust wavering against the pillars like running a stick along a 
railing. ... A dak bungalow, white under a red roof, set back in a 
clearing, whitewashed stones leading to the round arches of the 
veranda, two men staring at us. I could observe, but not feel. Past 
present, and future blended, the material and the immaterial, as in 
the dawn. 

That was the bungalow in the Dun where at dusk I brought back 
a thirty-pound mahseer after a four-hour fight, knee-deep in the river. 
Twelve years ago? Ten? I remembered utter exhaustion, and exhilara- 
tion, but could feel neither. 

One, two, five, six, fifteen bullock carts in file, steep hill, swinging 
down in the whining shriek of the tires, past, behind. Army trucks, 
soldiers standing up in the back, staring up at the sky, blare of the 
old klaxon, past, behind. Tank transporter broken down, overturned, 
the tank upside down lower on the hill, men squatting round it, 
smoking, past. Another plain, open her full out again, and again the 
rising whine of the supercharger. Maize in the fields, women at the 
well, men with sickles, infantry marching in the slow dust column 
that infantry carry with them always, like the packs on their backs. 

These are the fields, five hundred miles away, I marched through 
with the two stars of a lieutenant on my shoulders and not a care in 
the world, a field company of purple-black Madrasi sappers and 
miners in front of me. They couldn't speak a word of Hindustani, 
only Tamil and English, and I had to translate their occasional 
shouted comments to the pert girl children running and leaping 
beside them, pointing at their black faces. Tall stovepipe khaki hats 
and names like Coomaramangaladamaswami that made them all ad- 
dress each other by their numbers, very polite, "Please, '498, adjust 

185 



my left packstrap, for it is aching into my bach" 

Rise of trees and jungle and the sun hot as fire against my eyeballs. 
Hills and rocks and the whitewashed stones again, dulled under dust, 
more soldiers, a long reach of scrub and a deer transfixed beside the 
road, monkeys crashing away in yellow green of the bushes. Down and 
around, this was the last hill line, the last gap, the plain of Sakti 
beginning to spread out, seen small, gradually larger through the trees 
as the road swung, tilting, fading, foreshortening as we reached the 
foot of the slope. Open land, rocks, almost desert, soldiers waiting in 
a dry nullah. 

Dogras they'd been, a platoon of them under a jemadar, as soft 
spoken as the Madrasis, but high-caste pale-skinned Hindus, always 
decorous and well-mannered, escorting fifteen Mahsud prisoners back 
to the Political Officer after a North-West Frontier fight Hardly 
prisoners, just men found wandering about the hills in their baggy 
cotton, with or without rifles, unable to account for themselves. I rode 
past with the Dogra colonel, him nearest the prisoners in the narrow 
nullah. One of them sprang out of the ruck and up at him, dragged 
him off his horse, a knife flashed, Colonel Dougherty struggling and 
kicking, both of them practically under the horse. The nearest Dogra 
ran his bayonet through the Mahsud. Then no one gave an order, 
and I was bending over the colonel, pulling him to his feet and hold- 
ing both horses' bridles with the other hand, and hardly realized 
what was happening until I looked up. By then only two of the 
prisoners were still alive, and the shy, quiet Dogras were cleaning 
their bayonets. A sepoy methodically ran the last two through the 
stomach. Then they set the colonel on his horse, asked politely 
whether I was sure I had suffered no hurt, and marched on. 

Tanks moving, far to the right, the south. If there was firing, I 
could not have heard it. Many trucks jammed together at the foot of 
the hill and the empty road running straight as an arrow across the 
plain, to the clustered houses of Sakti, and, on the near side, by itself, 
the white dot of the dak bungalow. In the distance the line of hills, 
and the cleft marking the top of the Lapri Gorge. 

Many transporters were parked off the road. I stopped the Bentley 
and called to a worried-looking major. "Where's General Gokal 
Singh?" 

He pointed up the road. "At the Sakti dak bungalow, sir. He's hold- 
ing an orders conference, I think." 

"Thank you. Have you got a car to spare?" 

186 



"For a few minutes, I think/' he said doubtfully. 

"This man is the leader of the local guerrillas, and must get as far 
forward as possible, quickly. Send him up, will you?" 

I explained quickly to the Marquess. He clambered out of the 
Bentley, his legs trembling so much that he nearly fell down. We 
shook hands. 

Then I went on. I stopped the Bentley off the main road, and 
walked down the driveway, between the inevitable whitewashed 
stones, toward the dak bungalow. Staff cars and jeeps lined the drive, 
nearly all flying pennants showing the commands of their owners. 
A company of infantry was waiting about in the compound, more or 
less at the alert. 

Two sepoys with tommy guns and a naik with a pistol stood on 
sentry at the foot of the veranda steps. The naik held up his hand. 
I said, "I carry a message from His Majesty to General Gokal Singh. 
It is most urgent and important." I showed him the intercepted letter, 
trusting that he could not read English. He saluted and stood aside. 

As I walked up the steps I had no idea what I was going to do. But 
on the top step I distinctly saw the Dogra who had saved Colonel 
Dougherty's life in 1937, his face unemotional, thrusting his bayonet 
forward in the long point just as though he were practicing it on the 
drill ground. I quietly pushed open the double doors which, in 
bungalows like this all over India, lead into a central hall. 

I knew exactly where everything would be. Sure enough, the hall 
was full of officers. Maps, map cases, and map boards covered the 
table and hung over the backs of chairs. A larger map was tacked to 
the far wall. General Gokal Singh, his back to me, was saying in 
Urdu: "There is no need—" It was a quarter past nine. 

I drew my automatic as I went in, and shot him three times in the 
back of the head. He jerked, spewed a stream of bright blood across 
the maps, then lay still, sprawled on the table. 

I said, "He was a traitor. There's the proof." I flung the letter on 
the table and swung round. The sentries burst in. They were Muslims. 
Holding the automatic on the naik I said, "Wait. The Hindu general 
was betraying us. I act on His Majesty's own orders." 

They hung back, perplexed and doubtful. A brigadier began to 
read the letter out loud. "It's true," he said at the end. He motioned 
to the sentries and they backed out. 

A colonel retched noisily in a corner. The rest, though they may 
have been listening with some part of their attention while the briga- 

187 



dier read the letter, stared at the mess on the table. Their faces were 
an unpleasant gray color under the varying shades of brown, and, if 
I'd had to do this earlier, say the day before, mine would have been, 
too. Gokal's head was twisted sideways, revealing that the bullets had 
come out mushroomed, blowing half his face, one eye and a mess of 
blood, brains, and mucus onto the table. Sumitra would not have 
looked different. 

I took back the letter and put it into my pocket. I hesitated a mo- 
ment, and that moment of standing there, staring at them, may have 
had important effects later. They must have thought I had come out 
hotfoot, direct from the King, with orders to execute a traitor; and, 
obviously, to appoint someone in his place. But for a few moments 
I did not know what to do. 

I could take over the corps myself. Then my credentials might be 
queried, my authority demanded. Being superseded in command was 
far more serious to most of these clots than losing a war. Certainly 
there would be frantic jealousy, and the consequences of that might 
be worse than the normal and to-be-expected incompetence. Some 
of the men in that room must also be in the plot to sell out to the 
Indians— but which? At that instant, not knowing who might have 
talked, or how much, someone was quaking in his boots, someone 
was wondering how to put me out of the way. 

I made up my mind. I must work through the senior officer. I 
turned to the major general commanding the infantry division, and— 
"Sir, His Majesty charges you with the command, and appoints you 
to the rank of lieutenant general. . . . May I have a word with you 
in private?" 

The major general, Slier Khan, called for the sentries to come in. 
No one spoke while they lifted the corpse and half carried, half 
dragged it outside. Sher Khan said, "The rest of you— get the mess 
cleaned up. Wait here." 

Then he and I went into one of the bedrooms. He bolted the door. 
"There must be other traitors. Who are they?" he asked. "I need to 
know. Otherwise I may entrust one of them with some vital job." 

He looked haggard and very old, though he was hardly fifty. You're 
probably on the edge of the plot yourself, I thought. I said, "His 
Majesty did not reveal that to me, sir. . . . Can you tell me briefly 
what is happening?" 

Sher Khan stared down at the bed, his hands shaking. He pulled 

188 



himself together with a visible effort and began to talk. 

The Indians were advancing on a broad front— up the gorge itself 
astride the main road, and wide round both north and south flanks. 
None of the dispositions we had planned had been made. "Gokal's 
orders," he said miserably. "He said—" 

I interrupted him. What Gokal had said or done no longer mat- 
tered. He was dead. "Have you had any identifications of units yet?" 
I asked. 

"Yes," he said. "The i/i3th Gurkha Rifles on the north, and the 
3/5th Mahratta Light Infantry on the south." 

"In the center?" 

He said, "Tanks of the Central India Horse, and infantry— 2/1 8th 
Royal Garhwal Rifles. . . . They're going to have us surrounded if 
we don't pull back." 

I said, "All those are in different brigades. My God, it can't be 
possible!" 

Max and I, both commanding battalions, served in Burma together 
under a flatulent genius who had read too much American Civil War 
history and had a cold contempt for men whose skins weren't white. 
Inspired by this combination, he had launched us not once, nor 
twice, but three times, on grandiose double encirclements, like a 
boxer trying to hit his enemy on both ears at the same time. Needless 
to say, the despised yellowbellies had counterpunched straight back 
down the middle, smashed the pivot, overrun guns and headquarters, 
and left Max and me to get our battalions back as best we could, 
without ammunition, food, or medical help. It seemed incredible 
that Max was doing the same now. If all three of his brigades, and 
the armor, were in the line he had no reserve to speak of. 

We sent for the intelligence officer and he gave us more identifica- 
tions, more reports from spies and guerrillas. There could be no doubt 
about it. Max was committing a cardinal sin. 

I talked rapidly to Sher Khan. A great victory lay to hand. His eyes 
began to gleam. Every soldier dreams of the laurels, of the people 
in the street saying, "That's him, the man who won the Famous 
Victoree." Sher Khan may have been on the edge of treason and he 
was not the most intelligent man in the world, but he could see this 
clearly enough. There were some technical points to be agreed, where 
to put the antitank guns, and when and where to commit the tanks— 
but the outline was plain enough. "It only needs energy and decision, 

189 



sir," I said, "and the will to fight." 

He was eager to go, then. "One moment, sir," I said, "I have 
another message for the officers, from His Majesty." 

The gray look returned to his face, but he nodded and we went 
through to the hall. The murmur of nervous conversation ceased. I 
stood there, suddenly aware of my dinner jacket. I took it off, for the 
day had become warm now. The white shirt and black bow tie did not 
seem so odd. I gathered their eyes to me. I began. 

"Gentlemen, officers of His Majesty . . . General Sher Khan sees 
the prospect of a great victory before us. In a moment he will give 
us his orders to bring it about. . . . We have only to do our duty. 
His Majesty reminds you that you are fighting for the honor of your 
names as well as his. He repeats that we are fighting for our future 
as free men, for the right to rule ourselves in our own way, and not by 
the dictate of babus in Delhi. If we fail in our duty none of us will 
ever be able to stand straight and look another man in the eye. 
We have eaten His Majesty s salt." 

I watched them as I spoke. Some kept their eyes downcast and did 
not look at me. In others, a spark of spirit began to glow. I am no 
Churchill and there was little emotion in my words, for I could find 
none. But there was agate hardness, and ruthless determination. 

I ended: "I have one final message from His Majesty ..." I 
looked slowly round the room, trying not to load my glance too 
heavily with menace; I didn't want to drive anyone to desperation. 
"It is this. His Majesty knows that this treason was not confined to 
General Gokal Singh alone. The action he will later take depends 
not on words or thoughts but on deeds— on what is done today." 

I saluted Sher Khan, left the room, and sat down exhausted on the 
veranda steps. Gokal Singh's body lay on the grass, covered by a 
blanket. No one went near it. 

And the will to fight. Those were the key words. I knew why Max 
was coming on like an amateur. I had seen that formation many times 
before— in the military history books, in the diagrams showing the 
methods used in our old battles against petty rajahs, nizams, amirs, 
shahs, and mandarins, from Suez to Peking. I could quote the text, 
written about 1870: "Against an Oriental opponent, too much 
maneuvering is a waste of time and can lead to disorganization. It is 
usually best to go straight for him, confident that a determined as- 
sault, pressed home, will cause his febrile enthusiasm, unbacked by 

190 \ 



discipline, to evaporate. A few scattered groups, led by individual 
brave men, may fight with desperation, and cause considerable dam- 
age, while the rest flee, but even this serves in the end only to destroy 
the enemy's leadership and break his cohesion . . ." 

Max was treating us just as the old Indian Army had treated his 
ancestors. For "Oriental" substitute "old-fashioned," "nonprogres- 
sive," "reactionary," or any of the other labels the Indian radio had 
been tying onto us for the past six months, and you had Max's tactical 
doctrine. 

I got up, went back into the hall, and listened to the last part of 
Sher Khan's orders. The colonels and brigadiers hurried off. I checked 
with Sher Khan to make sure I knew what was planned. Then I got 
into the Bentley. Now my real job began— to force the commanders 
to fight. 

I drove south across the plain, on rutted cart tracks, found a briga- 
dier, and listened while he gave his orders. I went up to the battalion 
in contact and heard the sharpening of the fire, so much so that the 
Indian artillery, which had been very quiet, opened fire. But our 
men held them. Returning to brigade headquarters I saw another 
battalion marching off posthaste to enter the general reserve for the 
great blow. 

At twelve I ran back to the Bentley and drove to the main road. 
Max was getting annoyed, and now his medium artillery began to 
fire. The heavy shells whined overhead with an angry roar, and burst 
far back where the road came out onto the plain, where the trans- 
porters were parked. Other guns began to fire on the Sakti dak bunga- 
low, since the heavier fighting had now made it obvious that there 
would be no rendezvous with Gokal Singh, no agreed surrender there. 
I found our tanks, concealed in scrub jungle, the men resting, the 
junior commanders studying their maps. 

At two I went forward to the leading battalion on the main road, 
near the entrance to the Lapri Gorge. Here the shelling was heavy 
and the raw troops looked nervous as men were hit and trenches de- 
stroyed. The brigadier came round with me and I thought his men 
would hold long enough. They were due to pull back in half an hour. 
Behind them engineers worked with frantic haste to lay a minefield, 
onto which we would draw Max's armor when this lot retreated. I 
visited the antitank guns, which were concealed as carefully as pos- 
sible—not very well, but one of two of our own fighters were always 

191 



in the air, and the Indians had not attempted to come over. 

Going back, on my circuitous way to the northern flank, I found 
the commander in chiefs Rolls parked in a grove beside a small 
stream that crossed the road there. The old Prince, dressed in a 
magnificent Mogul costume of green and gold silk, was eating lunch 
off silver plates laid round him on the grass. His chauffeur was pre- 
paring a hookah, and the groom was currycombing the gray charger 
tethered to a tree. 

He invited me cordially to share his lunch with him, but I refused. 
He had no idea what the battle plan was and begged me not to tell 
him. He was sure it was good, but much too complicated for him to 
understand. One of the young colonels would come to him when the 
climactic moment was at hand. He looked very calm and sure, and 
before I left I knelt quickly before him, and placed my hands be- 
tween his. He squeezed them and said, "God be with you, Savage. 
You are a good man, a real sahib." 

Over to the north flank: the same situation as on the south— one of 
our battalions holding two or three of theirs, the rest gone into the 
central reserve. I drove back to the main road, begged food off the 
headquarters of a regiment of field artillery, and ate it quickly. 

Crash! On the stroke of four o'clock Max's artillery opened up all 
along the front. He had stopped fooling, and begun his attack. Calls 
for defensive fire began to increase until they came in like a flood. 
From them, and the occasional situation reports, I could tell what 
was happening. On the south our men were pulling back, drawing 
the enemy farther along the slope. Over there I saw shells bursting in 
the distance, and clouds of dust rising on the ridge. To the north the 
same, but our men were retreating faster than they should. In the 
middle, reports of enemy tanks advancing under heavy covering fire. 
Our antitank guns in action. Two Indian tanks on fire, three . . . 

Now was the moment. We had them trapped, just as we had 
planned— half his tanks on the plain, half in the gorge, and no reserve 
to counter ours. A heavy attack by our fighter bombers had been 
called for. The antitank guns and forward infantry .only had to stand 
firm for half an hour behind the minefield while our own tanks 
moved up, with the reserve. . . . They were on the way now. 

The artillery colonel turned to me, his face anxious. "The planes 
aren't coming." 

"Why?" I said. 

192 



"No reason given." 

Who'd ordered that, I raged. But perhaps it wasn't an order. Per- 
haps the Indians had raided the fields. Perhaps . . . 

"Call for SOS fire on A. 36," the gunner colonel said. I looked at his 
map. SOS A. 36 was right in the middle of one of our forward posi- 
tions. "They've vacated it," the gunner said. 

SOS on B.7, also in the center, also where the men were supposed 
to be standing fast. The line was crumbling at the one point where it 
had to stand firm. Who was giving these orders? Where was the 
treachery now? The automatic itched against my side. 

"Our tanks ceased their advance. Halted at 403621. That's a mile 
over there, on the north." 

Prince Afif rode by alone, on his charger, his scimitar on his shoul- 
der. I jumped into the Bentley and tore up the road. Smoke and dust 
and bitter explosive fumes from bursting shells lashed at me. If I 
could reach the armor— if I could just get to them, shoot the man 
who had ordered the halt, take command myself, find the young 
major, someone, anyone who had a fire in his belly ... I rammed 
the Bentley along a cart track, turned right, raced it across country. 

I knew what had happened: Max was right, the old textbooks were 
right— that was all. But there was still a chance. If I could just get to 
the armored brigade . . . surely someone would stand fast over 
there, in the center, when they saw their old Prince riding forward 
alone? Surely, just for a few minutes . . . ? 

The rock outcrops concealed a sunken road. I bounced into it and 
turned left. The sound of aircraft distracted my attention and, look- 
ing up, I saw Indian Spitfires overhead. When I lowered my eyes I 
found myself motoring at fifty miles an hour straight at the dark- 
green hulk of a tank— a Sherman tank of the Indian Army. I stood 
on the brakes, and dived out while the Bentley was still moving. I 
heard the roar of the tank's '75, and felt the blast of the explosion as 
the shell ripped into the Bentley's engine. She exploded in flames but 
by then I was out of the sunken road and running across bare ground. 
There were other tanks behind the first and their coaxial Brownings 
tore the air into noisy strips about my ears. I saw a sort of depression 
near a low bush, and as I dived for it a mad mule kicked me in the 
back and hurled me into it. 

I felt no pain then, only suffocation, and my breath trying to come 
in heavy groans. My shirt was getting wet. 

*93 



Three or four co-axes were tearing up the earth by my head, like 
pneumatic drills, deafening me. They stopped, and a colossal explo- 
sion showered me with dirt. That was a turret gun again. One more 
of those would blast me to pieces. I staggered to my feet, wondering 
whether they'd bother to stop firing, whether they could. Someone 
might have his finger on the trigger as I rose. 

I stood there a long time, one hand on my belly, blood pouring 
out over my fingers, hurting badly now, seeing nothing in the low 
glare of the sun. I thought I was in water, and swimming. Everything 
was silent. The tank engines must have been running but I didn't 
hear them. One of the tanks glided close to me and I tried to focus. 
Someone was leaning out of the turret. 

"Salaam, sahib," a familiar voice said. "Ap kaise hain?" 

My head cleared with miraculous suddenness. The pain grew 
steadily worse, but I could see and understand very clearly. It was 
Rissaldar Rikirao Purohit, of the Bombay Lancers. I knew him well, 
because we had fought in Burma together. Also because he had shown 
me his family's most treasured possession, a faded letter commending 
Daffadar Rikirao Purohit of the Bombay Lancers for good work 
against a Thug gang. The letter was dated March 27, 1826, and signed 
by William Savage. His great-great-grandfather, and mine. 

"Salaam, rissaldar sahib," I said. "Ap kaise hain?" 

One must observe the decencies. The rissaldar-sahib had asked me 
how I was, I had asked him how he was. Next must come a formal 
invitation to be seated, to have a cigarette. 

"Tashrif rakhiye," I said. "Sigrit pijiye." 

He said, "Thank you, sahib. I regret I have to be going." He ducked 
down inside the turret. On the sunken road the Bentley burned 
with an orange flame and dense black smoke. The man leaning out 
of the next tank I had also known in Burma and I saw that he was 
now a daffadar. I congratulated him on his promotion. "Thank you, 
sahib," he said, smiling from ear to ear. 

Rikirao's head popped back up out of the turret. "We have been 
ordered to stay where we are," he said. "There is perhaps a cease-fire. 
I think the enemy have surrendered." 

Agile as a cat he climbed out of the turret and ran to me. "Your 
wound, sahib," he said, "it is serious. Does it hurt badly?" 

"Only when I laugh, rissaldar sahib," I said, and fainted. 

When I came round I was sitting up beside the main road. I don't 

194 



know how I got there. Rikirao was supporting me in his arms, my 
shirt was raised, and there were a couple of shell dressings over my 
wound. My nostrils reeked of iodine and it hurt worse than ever. My 
daffadar friend jabbed a needle into my arm. A group of soldiers 
were brewing up tea in a desert cooker— an old kerosene oil can filled 
with earth and soused with gasoline. A few minutes later a young 
sowar brought me tea in a messtin, but Rikirao said sharply, "Not 
with a belly wound, O outwitted yokel. Are you trying to kill the 
sahib?" 

Dimly I heard other voices. A staff car had stopped on the road. 
Max and L. P. Roy were walking toward me. Everyone saluted, and I 
managed to raise my hand to my forehead. 

Max dropped to one knee. "Rodney, are you all right?" 

"My pistol went off by accident," I said, "while I was cleaning it." 

A high proportion of belly wounds are fatal. Internal bleeding 
would show its effect soon enough and then I'd go out. I didn't care. 

Roy's voice said, "Colonel Savage!" 

"O-B-E-M-C," I mumbled. 

It was getting hard to talk straight, the morphia taking effect but 
the wound still raging, but one has to keep the natives in their place. 

"Armed, in action, wearing civilian clothes," Roy said. "I warned 
you." 

"General Gokal . . . invitation to breakfast," I got out. "Said, 
come as you are." 

"And we have half a dozen witnesses to prove that you murdered 
General Gokal Singh!" Roy shouted. He was furious again. 

Max interrupted roughly. "That can be settled later, sahib." He 
rattled off orders: "Get up the jeep ambulance. Take him direct to 
the CCS. You, go with him." 

Roy said, "I shall hold you personally responsible for his safe cus- 
tody, general." 

Rikirao said, "I'll take him back myself, sahib." 

"Only when I laugh," I mumbled, seeing no one any more, trying 
to shout it against the encroaching darkness. "Only when I laugh . . . 
only when ..." I lost consciousness, my last thought being a cer- 
tain knowledge that whether this dark slope led immediately to death 
or not I would never laugh again. 



*95 



Chapter 15 



Major General Ran Singh Dadhwal, comfortably settled in the canvas 
chair in his office tent, slowly filled his pipe. Through the open end 
of the tent he looked out over the plain of Sakti, dull in the twilight. 
The single bulb, hanging from the ridgepole by its cord, came on, 
gave out a wavering light, and faded. The general frowned, listening 
with half an ear for the kick and throb of the generator to start again. 
When it did, he noted that the current was still unsteady. He took a 
notebook from his pocket and wrote briefly. 

A chill wind blew round the group of headquarters tents and trucks 
scattered among the trees at the eastern edge of the plain. The sun 
had just set and an even violet light spread across the sky. A burned- 
out tank stood like a ruined monument in the plain, about a mile 
away. Farther off, the village of Sakti lay under the blue haze of its 
cooking fires. It was the third day after the battle. 

The general finished filling his pipe and methodically found his 
matches. He kept them always in his right-hand tunic pocket. He lit 
one and held it over the bowl. With the second match the pipe began 
to draw well. The general blew out each match in turn, held it until 

196 



he could break it, then dropped the halves into the ash tray on the 
table beside him. The second time, he noticed a small hole in the 
green baize laid over the table. He pulled out his notebook and wrote: 
Camp Comdt, hole in my baize. 

Behind him, on another table in the far corner of the tent, flowers 
and offerings of gur lay at the feet of a small statute of the monkey-god 
Hanuman, his own personal avatar. Beside the statue, on one side, 
stood portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru; on the 
other a portable bookcase, containing the Mahabharta, King's Regu- 
lations, the Ramayana, the Indian Army List, the Bhagavad Gita, the 
Life of Robert Olive, Memoirs of the Emperor Baber, and Wavell on 
Leadership. 

The general heard a discreet cough outside the tent and saw the tips 
of a pair of brown shoes. A voice said, "Sir ... it is Major Gupta. 
You sent for me?" 

"Yes. Come in." 

A small dark fat man sidled apologetically in, saluted, and stood at 
attention just inside the tent flap. The general said, "I wanted to ask 
how your patient is . . . Colonel Savage." 

The fat major said, "The A.D.M.S. saw him again this afternoon, 
sir. Of course we cannot be sure, but bullet seems to have made clean 
passage without puncturing intestine or wital organs. He has been 
suffering from obvious shock, but owing to good general condition 
he is making rapid recowery from that. He is somewhat weak, natu- 
rally. Temperature 101.1, pulse 95, poor wolume, and increased rate 
of breathing. Unless A.D.M.S. diagnosis is wrong though, and it is 
confirmed by X rays, he should recower after suitable period in base 
hospital." 

"Is he ready to be moved?" 

The major said, "If moved carefully, yes. He has excellent powers 
of resistance. ... I found him out of bed just now, sir, standing by 
exit. When I insisted he must get back he said he was looking for 
nurses' quarters. He needed a woman and told me to send him a 
nurse at once." 

"And doubtless you told him sexual intercourse was contraindicated 
until his wound had healed properly?" 

"Yes, sir. Of course! I explained the effect on the walls of the 
stomach tissue and the drawing away of blood, the general strain on 
muscle. Besides, I said his request was impossible, as there are no 

197 



nurses with a field ambulance. Besides . . ." 

"It's against Army Instructions, India, to have sexual intercourse 
with nurses." 

"Precisely, sir. Also . . ." 

"Also, it is not a nice thing to suggest, being insulting to Indian 
womanhood. No, for God's sake, don't agree with me. ... I want 
to talk to him. He has important information I need. Could you 
bring him here?" 

The major said doubtfully, "I think so, sir. Of course, in absence of 
military necessity, on medical grounds alone, it is not to be recom- 
mended, but . . ." 

"Bring him now. Wait— I suppose he has no clothes?" 

"No, sir. What he was wearing was evening dress, mufti, without 
coat, and in wery poor condition, quite u/s. I have made out destruc- 
tion certificate . . ." 

"I'm sure. Give him these. I think they're about the right size." He 
got up and handed the doctor a small roll done up in a faded blue 
durrie. 

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." The major saluted and backed away. 

The general sat down again. Bloody silly little man. With a fellow 
like that in charge, perhaps it wasn't really necessary to make any 
special arrangements. Rodney was more than capable of dealing with 
him. But at any moment they'd send him back to the main military 
hospital in Bhowani, and that would be different. 

Why did so many of the new generation take themselves so seri- 
ously? It wasn't like that in the old days. Look at Brigadier Moti 
Yasurvedan, Moti the Menace, with his monocle and his hackin' 
jacket down to his knees, motoring off to take over the pacification of 
Chambalpur. Moti's command car was always followed, at a respectful 
distance, by a three-ton truck with armchairs, sofas, silver, linen, a 
small four-poster bed, and a portable bar. Moti, when on outpost duty 
on the Frontier just before the war, had left his squadron to his 
rissaldar, with a thousand copies of his signature, and flown to Paris. 
And would have got away with it if he hadn't run into his colonel in 
Maxim's. . . . 

The general chuckled and wondered how much longer the teams 
playing cricket on the plain could continue in the rapidly failing 
light. With the pitch as rough as an obstacle course, they must have 
been playing by radar even half an hour ago. 

198 



A steady crunching of boots on the dry leaves made him turn his 
head to the left. He saw his A.D.C. striding through the trees, shotgun 
on shoulder and English pointer quietly at heel. He called out, "Any 
luck, Chop?" 

"Not a bloody thing, sir. The birds must have been frightened by 
the noise the other day. They've probably reached Cape Comorin 
by now." 

The young captain disappeared. The general relit his pipe. There 
were good ones in the younger crowd. And certainly the British had 
plenty of bad ones. All the same, there was a loneliness ... it took 
a lot of effort to combat it. He missed them— even Talbot, even Byrne, 
whom he'd fought to earn his nickname. What a narrow-minded 
blighter Byrne was— wonder what he's doing now? Never got very 
far, retired as a lieutenant colonel right after the war, probably pig 
farming in Essex. He was a blighter, all right. But no one ever had to 
tell him when to blow his nose, what attitude to adopt. He made up 
his own mind, and never asked anyone's permission. No one had to 
give him lectures about esprit de corps or work to convince him that 
he was the best in the world. He knew it. 

That was it— confidence. Very unpleasant when it led to kicking 
Indians out of first-class compartments and yelling about Wog music, 
but, oddly enough, it hadn't cut them off as much as you'd expect. 
They never shouted at sowar or sepoy. Their manners to the V.C.O.s 
were wonderful. Say a word against Dogra or Mahratta or Garhwali— 
whichever they happened to be serving with— and it was worse than 
imputing sodomy to the King. Their viceroys lived and moved like 
monarchs— wasn't it Edward P. who said he never really knew how 
royalty lived until he stayed at Viceregal Lodge?— but the rest didn't 
give a damn for the Viceroy, and not much more for the commander 
in chief. Ride hard, play hard, don't ask questions, never doubt your- 
self or your regiment. . . . The gap they created was between them- 
selves and the Indian upper-middle class— his own. He'd never seen 
an Englishman until he left the little village where his father owned 
land to go to school. Now they'd gone— and everything about him 
breathed of them, and again the laurels of victory crowned the Colors 
they had devised and set up as symbols, and now given into his hands. 

He went out and beckoned to the Sikh military policeman sitting 
on a bench ten yards away. The Sikh leaped to attention, saluted, 
and ran up. The general said, "Have the jawans eaten?" 

199 



"Not yet, sahib. We are eating by turns." 

"The war is over. You can all eat together tonight. Go now, and 
get your tot of rum. You needn't come back until ten. Enjoy your- 
selves. Sat sri akkall" 

"Sat sri akkal!" the soldier replied, saluting with a broad smile. 

The general looked at his jeep, parked behind his tent, and called, 
"Harnam Singh!" 

Another Sikh popped out from inside the guard tent. "You, too. 
Off you go." 

When the driver had followed the military policeman, the general 
took his red divisional flag off the jeep's fender, rolled it into its khaki 
cloth cover, and carried it back into the tent. 

Another jeep puttered up. Major Gupta and a medical orderly 
helped Rodney down from the seat beside the driver. Rodney came 
forward, leaning heavily against the doctor. Max noticed that the 
khaki sweater, green trousers, and woolen shirt he had sent fitted 
him perfectly. About the boots he couldn't be sure, but they looked 
all right. He saw by a bulge at Rodney's pocket that he had the beret 
tucked away there. That was important. The M.P.s were demons on 
correct dress— as he'd insisted they should be. 

The general pulled forward another canvas-seated chair and Rodney 
lowered himself into it. The general said, "All right, Gupta. You can 
go now. I'll call you when I'm finished. . . . Are you comfortable, 
Rodney?" 

"Yes, thanks." 

"Excuse me a moment." He picked up the field telephone on the 
table and said, "C.I.E.M.E., please. . . . Divisional commander. Are 
you ready to talk about the tank recovery state yet? . . . Good. No, 
give me a ring here in . . . twenty minutes." 

He put down the handset and smiled at his friend. "Sorry, I don't 
have any of your awful cheroots. How are you, really?" 

"Not bad. A little weak, but not as weak as Gupta thinks. . . . 
That field ambulance is a bit of a mess, Max. Anwar's a good doctor 
and so's Gupta, but they've got no idea of administration. The or- 
derlies play cards all day, the jerries aren't emptied, they keep running 
out of rations . . ." 

Max said, "I've had my eye on it for some time. Thanks. . . . Rod- 
ney, I don't want to be melodramatic, but you're in danger. Roy got 
a dispatch out— I had to end military censorship as soon as they sur- 

200 



rendered— and now the press and the government know all about you. 
Did you have to shoot Gokal?" 

Rodney said, "Either that or lie down. I told you I'd fight, one day." 

"I didn't like him myself. . . . You can go home without feeling 
you've failed, Rodney. I was thinking, before you came— so much that 
I see and touch and feel is yours. You're leaving something pretty 
good, at least I think so, and a few hundred thousand others like me. 
And you're taking a lot with you, too. You can't leave your memories 
behind." 

Rodney held out his hands slowly. "Empty-handed," he said quietly. 
"Beaten. . . . How did the l/i^th do?" 

"Very well. Forty casualties. I don't suppose they'd have had any, 
except for you." 

"One does what one has to." 

The general sighed. "I know. . . . Look, there's no time to waste. 
In a day or two, even by tomorrow perhaps, you will be on your way, 
put into the machine. To the C.I.M.H. in Bhowani. Then— to Delhi 
jail, I suppose. Is there anyone you want me to tell? Your father . . ." 
As soon as he had said the words he remembered, but it was too late. 

Rodney said, "My father is dead. He was killed during Partition, 
on a very appropriate date as a matter of fact— August 14, 1947, the 
day before Independence." 

Max said, "I'm sorry." 

Rodney was looking down at the table. "I should have been up 
there with him, with Pete Rees on the Boundary Force. I wasn't. 
I was in Bombay, seeing about getting a job with McFadden Pulley. 
Perhaps I would have been killed up there, too. And then we would 
have all come to an end tidily, no loose ends, exactly on Glamorous 
Dickie's schedule. . . . It's rather wonderful to think of Attlee and 
the Admiral, with about three months' knowledge of India between 
them, breaking up in half a year what it took us two centuries to build. 
Not only that, but getting the whole damned lot loaded onto ships, 
pushed under the carpet, or at least disposed of somehow. Only they 
moved too fast for me. I got left over, me and five hundred rajahs. 
They, poor simple-minded saps, went round waving the treaties in 
which the Noble British Government guaranteed them their inde- 
pendence. They actually thought the Honest British Sailor would 
concern himself to see that those silly scraps of paper were honored. 
I didn't have a piece of paper. . . . You had no business to accept 

201 



the partition of India, Max. No business to ride over the princes like 
a gang of Nazis. You only had to wait a few years, and do it honorably, 
even if it meant having us around that much longer. Twenty years 
from now this won't be the army you knew— you're brutalizing your- 
selves, and India." 

Max said, "I don't know ... I feel a bit dirty, in a way . . . But 
we'd waited a long time already. Time seems different from inside a 
jail, even though you think the jailer has tremendous qualities. And 
I suppose there comes a time when you have to tear down something, 
so that you can start to rebuild. The princes really were out of date, 
a sort of political slum, somebody called them. . . . Janaki's in 
Bhowani, at Flagstaff House. There's no sentry at the back where 
that lane runs along the garden hedge." 

The telephone rang. "Divisional commander. . . . Yes, it is urgent, 
as a matter of fact, and I want to see that damaged gun for myself. 
I'll be right over." 

He stood up, and picked up his red-banded hat. "I have to go to 
the C.I.E.M.E. I'll be back in half an hour." 

Rodney said, "All right. By the way, you'll find three men of Pattan 
in the Chambalpur dungeons. Their names are Chadi, Mitoo, and 
Ganesha. They probably ought to get a medal. Better still, give them 
some cash from the imprest before you have to go back to peace 
accounting." 

The general made a note in his little pad. "Thanks," he said. "I'm 
glad about them. Roy had an idea that we might be able to add them 
to the charges against you, if we searched hard enough in the jungles." 
He went out, glancing back once. His friend was sitting with his 
head in his hands, staring down at the table. He looked ill and tired 
and bitter. The general turned back, and said in a low voice, "For 
God's sake, Rodney, no more violence." 

The man at the table nodded without looking up. The general 
went out and walked quickly and quietly through the trees toward a 
cluster of lights a hundred yards away to the east. 

He had hardly reached it, greeted the waiting colonel, sat down 
inside a tent similar to his own, and begun to examine the chart 
spread out before him, when the telephone rang. The colonel picked 
it up. 

"C.I.E.M.E. . . . Yes, he's here, sir." He turned to the general. 
"It's L. P. Roy, sir. He's on his way through from Chambalpur and 

202 



wants to speak to you. He's in your tent." 

The general swore silently. "Tell him I'll be right over," he said. 
"This will have to wait." 

He walked slowly back to his headquarters. His jeep was still stand- 
ing behind his tent. A government car with a civilian driver sitting 
behind the wheel was parked close by. Sheer, rotten luck! Rodney had 
looked fit enough to drive eighty miles, and, dressed as a sepoy, with 
his command of Hindi and no M.P. likely to stop him, he ought to 
have got through to Bhowani without trouble in a couple of hours. 
Trying to escape on foot, though, in his state . . . 

L. P. Roy was seated in his chair and the general felt a small stir of 
resentment. Why did the damned man have to keep emphasizing his 
superiority over the military? They'd done what they were told, hadn't 
they? 

Roy spoke in English. "Good evening, general. All is quite well in 
Chambalpur. We have installed Dunawal as temporary chief minister, 
and he hopes to form a provisional government by tomorrow. I am on 
way back to Delhi to report to the Prime Minister. I am going to 
catch the night train at Bhowani. I would be glad if you could give me 
something to eat." 

"Delighted." 

"Thank you. While we are waiting, I would like to see the prisoner, 
Savage." 

"All right," the general said. "Would you care for a drink?" 

Roy waved his arm. "I do not drink, as I think you know, general. 
In fact, I recall advising you that the alcohol habit was un-Indian and 
a relic of British imperialism." He stood up. "Let us go and see the 
prisoner now." He looked fanatical and bitter— as bitter as Rodney, 
Max thought. What did he have to be bitter about? He wished he had 
the Prime Minister to talk to, to explain to, instead of this hot- 
tempered, bigoted politician. Nehru had his faults, but ungenerosity 
was not one of them— and he was a gentleman. 

He thought slowly, Now what's the best way of holding Roy off 
for a little? He had promised Rodney half an hour. So far only 
twenty minutes had passed. Of course, Rodney wouldn't need the 
time so much, going on foot. He could be anywhere, whereas in the 
jeep he could only be up or down the road. 

"Let us go," Mr. Roy repeated impatiently. His white Gandhi cap 
sat straight on top of his thick hair, and his dhoti was spotlessly white. 



20 



"Sir . . . General Dadhwal . . ." The fat doctor peered into the 
tent, saluting. "Sir, it is my medical duty to adwise you that the patient 
should return to the hospital now. He has been here nearly forty-five 
minutes, and that . . ." He peered round the tent. His face took on a 
comical expression of surprise, then fear. 

Max thought of saying he'd sent Rodney back to the hospital. Then 
they'd all go and look for him there— but Gupta had just come from 
the hospital and could say he hadn't arrived. Besides, Roy was sharp 
as a knife, and it was too late. 

"You left the prisoner here," Roy snapped, "with General 
Dadhwal?" 

"Yes, sir," the doctor stammered, "forty-five minutes ago. I . . ." 

Roy waved a hand. "Go, go!" 

He turned coldly on Max. "We will hold you responsible for this, 
general! I promised Savage that he would pay dearly if he opposed us. 
You will face a court-martial, and it will not be packed by your 
friends. There are some generals who understand there has been a 
change in India!" 

Max said nothing. The longer Roy spoke the longer it would be 
before he would have to give any effective orders to recapture 
Rodney. "I was going to recommend you for a high order, and promo- 
tion, for your good work in this affair," Roy snapped. "Now I will 
withdraw those recommendations. Unless Savage is found, at once!" 

Max said, "You must do whatever you think fit. We all must. Per- 
sonally, I think you are being petty." 

Roy was not really a bad or petty man, just a product of his nature 
and the political history of the past thirty years. But he was famous 
for two things: his fanatical hatred of the British and his short temper. 
Max hoped to stir the latter into further time-wasting fulminations. 
He succeeded. 

Roy raised one shaking hand and waved it in the air, stabbing and 
slicing. "Watch out, general! Watch out, you and your Sandhurst 
friends! We have had enough of this Sandhurst spirit. You are serv- 
ants of the people now. We don't want your polo ponies and 
English tweed coats while the people starve! What did you do in our 
fight for freedom, but toady to the English!" 

Max said, "I was taught to stand by my obligations, Mr. Roy, at 
first in my home, by my father, and also, later, at Sandhurst. I was 
taught to obey constitutionally given orders whether I agreed with 
them or not. I took the English government's arms, and their train- 

204 



ing, and if I had betrayed them, how do you know I wouldn't betray 
you? I have an armored brigade and an infantry division here. General 
Usman has a corps in Kashmir. General Rajbir has a corps in the 
south. Would you like any of us to forget what we were taught?" 

"That would be treason," Roy said. "You are under oath to defend 
the constitution." 

"You are wrong, sahib. I am not under oath. The British never 
made me swear an oath, nor has our own government since Independ- 
ence. What really matters cannot be put in writing, or sworn to by 
oaths. That's why you are safe, and that is why my friend Rodney 
Savage, an officer of the Indian Army, will have at least one more 
half hour before any attempt is made to find him. Some Indian 
traditions have to be sacrificed for the future of India, but not 
personal loyalty. At least, not by me. I have eaten his salt. ... If 
you wish to report the matter to the Prime Minister, I shall be 
pleased to accompany you to Delhi. Now I am going to have a drink." 

He turned his back, opened a drawer in the table, and pulled out a 
bottle of whisky and one glass. 

"Have you got another glass?" 

The woman's voice was low and tired. Roy and the general turned. 
Sumitra, Rani of Kishanpur, stood in the entrance to the tent, leaning 
against the pole, her palms joined in namasti. 

Roy hurried forward. "Your Highness!" He seized a chair and 
pushed it forward. Sumitra sat. "I searched everywhere for you in 
Chambalpur, but could not find you." 

"I was ... in retreat," she said. 

"India owes you a great debt. I have messages for you from New 
Delhi. . . . You did not know, general, that Her Highness was our 
chief agent inside Chambalpur? 

"I did not," Max said curtly. "Until the All India Radio announced 
it after the surrender." 

Sumitra looked up, her hands spread pleadingly. "I believed in the 
policy, Max. I made up my mind to do all that I could, months 
before Rodney came to Kishanpur that time ... as soon as I really 
understood that India was free and there was work for me in shaping 
and building it." Max continued to look at her, his face stern and 
sad. She threw out a hand toward him. "My God, Max, I tried to 
warn him, but in the end I was caught, just as much as he. . . . 
Where is he? In hospital here, still? I've got to see him. Perhaps he 
feels better now. He did his best. No one could have done more, and 

205 



he must see now that what he wanted to achieve was hopeless from 
the beginning. If only I could have persuaded him of that, before we 
went to Chambal." 

'Then he would not have gone, or taken the Nawab's pay," Max 
said coldly. 

She drank the whisky. Roy stood behind her chair, listening, sur- 
prise growing in his face. "But you did not really care for him, Your 
Highness!" he cried. "He is an enemy of India!" 

Sumitra ignored him, and spoke to Max. "I wouldn't do it again, 
if I could start at the beginning, ... It wasn't worth it, but how 
could I know? Anything seemed worth it r for the new India." 

"It is," Roy said emphatically. 

Max said, "Murder? Deceiving people who love and trust you? 
Turning in your mother to the police? If you think those are worth- 
while, for India, it isn't a new India you'll create but a new Soviet, 
a new Nazi Germany. . . . Rodney has escaped. Sri Roy and I were 
just discussing the best method of recapturing him." 

The Rani's head sank into her hands. Max saw that she was weep- 
ing. "Alone," she whispered, "alone again, in the jungle, wounded. If 
only I'd come earlier!" 

"He wouldn't have listened to you," Max said. "Here, have another 
drink." He patted her shoulders awkwardly. "I'm sorry I spoke like 
that just now. I didn't know you had ... I didn't know." 

Roy's face was unexpectedly gentle. He had got over his temper. 
"I am sorry for both of you, but I, too, have my duty to do— a larger 
duty than either of yours, if you will excuse me. I shall give the neces- 
sary orders myself." 

Max called after him, "No one will obey you. Just wait a bit, 
please." 

Sumitra raised her tear-stained face. "Has he gone?" 

"Yes." 

"I couldn't bear the look in your eyes, Max. My father and mother 
are dead. There's got to be someone in the world who knows. I'm 
going to have his child. He doesn't know. Only you. Not Janaki, nor 
Dip, nor anyone else at all yet. Only you. So that there'll be one 
human being's eyes that will look at me with sympathy." 

She rose unsteadily, and Max, silent and appalled, helped her into 
the open air. 

206 



Chapter 16 



Margaret Wood pushed the falling hair back out of her eyes and 
began on the second shelf of the almirah in the corner. Almirah was 
the Hindustani word for 'wardrobe/' but to be a true almirah it had 
to be this kind of wardrobe— rickety, creaky, liable to fall over on you 
if you tugged too hard at the door, the wood warped by forty hot 
weathers and forty monsoons. 

One, two, three . . . four pairs of sheets for the double bed, all of 
them patched and frayed at the hem from the vigorous beating the 
dhobi gave them on the flat stones by the river below Lapri. She 
didn't need double-bed sheets. She could cut them in half. But that 
would make eight pairs— more than she'd need. She glanced down 
at the wooden, iron-banded trunk on the floor. Everything had to get 
into that, and one suitcase. 

She took two pairs of sheets from the almirah, folded them and 
packed them in the trunk. The others she laid on a pile of linen and 
clothes in the corner. 

Pillow cases . . . face towels . . . bath towels . . . The same in- 
soluble problem every time— no space to pack all that she would 

207 



need, no money to buy more when she reached wherever she was 
going. 

She was folding the towels too small now, so that they made a need- 
less bulk. They'd go better with only one fold. She knew that quite 
well. Henry used to say she was a wonderful packer, a wonderful, 
efficient woman. Where had all that gone? Vanished, with the sense 
of purpose. Could an aimless, unhappy woman pack well? Thin khaki 
shirts, four. She'd better take two and wash them herself, like her 
underclothes. She held up a petticoat in disgust, and threw it on the 
pile in the corner. 

She heard the fast-approaching roar, easily recognizable, of a jeep, 
and glanced at her watch. Eleven o'clock. She'd have to stop soon or 
she'd fall asleep over the trunk. The jeep engine stopped outside and 
she raised her head. Nailed boots ran up the front veranda steps, 
knuckles beat on the door. She climbed to her feet and opened the 
door. The light from the narrow hall where she was packing shone on 
the face of a young Indian lieutenant. 

He saluted energetically. "Mrs. Wood?" 

She nodded. The jeep headlights shone across the weeds of the 
lawn toward the chapel and the gravestones. She saw the dim shapes 
of two soldiers with cradled rifles in the jeep, behind the glare of the 
lights. 

He said, "A prisoner of war has escaped from hospital up the road. 
He is on foot, and armed, and we are warning all villages to be on the 
lookout for him. There is a reward of five thousand rupees for any 
information leading to his capture." He looked embarrassed, and his 
glance turned away from her. "He's an Englishman, about five feet 
ten, very sunburned, blue eyes—Colonel Rodney Savage." 

"From the hospital!" she cried. "He's hurt? But All India Radio 
said yesterday that he was in jail! If I'd known . . ." 

The lieutenant said, "I suppose they wanted to keep it secret, 
until they really had got him to jail. . . . You know him? He was 
wounded in the stomach, quite badly, but he was recovering well until 
he escaped." He looked full at her. "It's Mr. Roy who has ordered the 
reward. . . . My orders are to advise anyone living alone, like this, 
to keep the house locked, and to take every means to inform us as 
soon as possible if they see or hear of him. . . ." He glanced past her. 
"You're not going anywhere tonight, are you? I don't think Colonel 
Savage would harm you, or anyone else— but he might give you an 

208 



awful fright if you ran across him, and . . ." 

"Not tonight," she said. "The new missionary is due tomorrow." 

The lieutenant saluted again, ran down the steps, and jumped into 
the jeep. The engine kicked into life, the headlights swung round 
and away, along the narrow cart road toward the old Rest House and 
Pattan. 

Rodney, wounded! When she heard that he was in jail, charged 
with murder and treason, a wave of absolute lassitude, and exhausted 
failure, overcame her. She had hardly stirred herself, even to eat or 
drink, until she began to pack early this afternoon. He was in jail- 
but where? He needed a lawyer. She knew nothing of lawyers, and had 
no money to hire one. He was behind brick walls and iron bars, and 
she had no strength to climb, no weapons to blast open. She did not 
know where he was, and she did not have the money to go to him. 

She stood at the open door, her mind lifting like a boat on a rising 
wave. He was wounded, and free, and she was a nurse. Now, if she 
could find him, she could at last do something to give him an inkling 
of her love. Later she would give him her body, which he had once 
asked for and she had refused; and once she had offered, wrapped in 
her soul, and he had rejected, through indifference more than hate. 

She turned to go into the bungalow. The shadow came up the steps 
almost beside her. She had her hand on the door when she realized, 
and his voice said, "Inside, and close the door behind me." He fol- 
lowed her in, she closed the door, and with one hand he locked it and 
pushed the bolt across. In his other hand a blue-black automatic 
pistol pointed at the pit of her stomach. 

"Into the bedroom," he said. She walked down the passage and 
he stopped at the door, in the shadows. "Draw the curtains, tight. 
Lock and bolt the back door. Now the door out of the ghuslkhana" 

"It's all right," she said. "They won't come in again." 

He stood in the middle of the bedroom, swaying like a poplar tree 
in a gusty wind. His face was a greenish gray under the fierce tan, 
and the blue eyes swam in and out of focus in time with his swaying, 
so that now they were sharp and cold, now dim and blurred. 

"Lie down on the bed," she said, trying to keep her voice calm. 
"You're ill." 

His mouth twisted. "Lie, sit — prang, I've had it. Then five thousand 
chips for you. Didn't they— pay enough for Gulu? Sorry, that wasn't 
you, was it? What's the difference?" 

209 



She drew a deep breath. "Rodney, the difference is that I love you. 
I've had no way of showing you, when you so obviously didn't care. 
You don't care now, and I can't make you in a minute. I only want 
to tell you, so that you'll know. I never want anything or anybody 
else but you." 

"That's what— she said— in the end." His eyes flickered on and off 
her face. "They want me," he mumbled. "Murder. Listen radio. 
Killed three Indian babies. Ate them, applesauce." He twisted slowly 
and began to fall. 

She had been waiting for it and from long experience was able to 
judge to the moment when and how it would come. She caught him, 
feeling her arms strong enough to hold him forever, and eased him 
onto the bed. She lifted up his legs and unfastened his boots. In the 
stomach, the lieutenant had said. She undid the buttons of his shirt 
and unfastened the buckle of his web belt— Indian Army uniform, she 
noticed, and practically new, though stained and scratched where he 
had fallen and stumbled. Six miles, in the hills, at night, from the edge 
of the Sakti Plain. He lay on his back, his right arm dangling over 
the edge of the bed, the pistol in his hand. She knelt and gently tried 
to disengage it, but his grip was like steel and she could not move it. 

She eased down his trousers. The exit wound was in the left anterior 
section of the abdominal wall, two inches from the navel. No 
granulation yet. Wound lacerated and about two inches square. Some 
recent bleeding and exudation of serum. The bandage had worked 
loose and hung round his loins. They seemed to be teaching the 
Indian Army the Evans Over-Cross Tie for abdominal wounds. The 
bullet couldn't have damaged any viscera or organ in its passage, or 
there would have been tubing in him, or signs of an operation. She 
turned him over gently. Entry wound small, one inch left of the spine 
at the sixth thoracic vertebra, barely missing the left kidney. Granula- 
tion tissue forming. Some recent bleeding beginning to clot. Tempera- 
ture 101, pulse 108. 

Systematically she began her preparations, her hands working with 
detached, unfumbling efficiency at their tasks, her heart soaring in 
dizzy ascent, singing like a lark toward the sun. He had come to her. 
This time she must not let go. 

He groaned, stirred, and tried to sit up. She reached his side before 
he could move, and laid her hand on his forehead. The eyes looked 
long at her, but dim and blank, and the pistol did not fall from his 



210 



hand. The kettle boiled. Quickly she made tea, stirred in plenty of 
sugar and milk, and two aspirins, and held the bowl to his lips. He 
drank deeply, and when he had finished the first bowl, whispered, 
"More." She made him another, and crooned over him as he drank, 
his head so close to her breast that there was a contraction in her 
womb and a swelling of her breasts. Later, in his sleep, he will wet 
the bed, she thought. She hoped he would, that she could wash and 
clean him and do, out of the fullness of love, all and more than he 
had done for her out of indifferent duty. 

She cleaned his wounds with antiseptic and retied the bandage. 
His head fell back on the pillow, and he slept on the instant, but his 
grip never loosened on the pistol. The sound of the jeep engine, 
returning from Pattan, grew in the west. She crouched over him, 
glaring at the door; but the jeep did not pause this time, and in a 
minute the sound died. 

She pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed, staring down at the 
drawn face. The thin lips fluttered with each rapid, noisy breath, the 
chest rose and fell in an uneven rhythm and both hands sometimes 
trembled, the left shaking the top of the sheet, the right causing the 
pistol to make a rapid drumming rattle on the wood floor. 

After half an hour the movements began to quieten and slow, and 
finally to cease altogether. She took his wrist. Pulse 80, temperature 
about 99.5. 

He said in a low distinct voice, "O.K., Harry, let's go down to the 
ford." Then he spoke longer, in a language she did not understand. 
Then he laughed, a low happy chuckle, and said, "Hut teri mar 
That she knew. It was soldiers' language, meaning "Up thy mother's!" 
He was smiling, and she smiled with him. 

He said, "There's cloud on the pass but we ought to . . . Barf, 
choro, barf. Snow, my son, snow . . ." 

The voice changed again. Now it was sharp, yet deep with a 
tremendous yearning. "We've got to try. How many of you are 
going to die in the next ten minutes?" Then edged and confident, 
"Achchi bat, choro-haru, advance garnu parchha. Tayyar chhan? 
Jaun!" He winced, his jaw set. 

It took a long time for him to recover the original calm. Then he 
whispered, "Janaki, Janaki, how can your legs be so slim and so 
strong?" 

She looked anxiously over her shoulder, and about the room. The 



211 



lamp burned steadily on the table. The curtains were drawn. She 
should not be hearing this, eavesdropping on his soul, until he trusted 
her. Smiling, he mumbled in a strong Anglo-Indian accent, "Oah, 
Vickee, come in out of thee sun, you will get all brown!" 

The minutes floated by, into half hours, into hours. Like a slowly 
revolving wheel his life passed. After a time she waited to hear him 
speak of his mother, of his father; of school in England, of green 
fields and cricket. He never did. Sometimes he spoke in Hindi, which 
she could understand a little, sometimes in the other language where 
only a word that was the same as Hindi came through. The sentences 
fell separate and disconnected from the fluttering lips, but formed 
a single world, a single life. Snow glittered on mountain peaks, and 
men climbed a long slope toward them. Indian girls danced in a 
closed room, very hot, and she heard the chinking of their bangles 
and saw his amused eyes fixed on their lascivious bellies. Rain fell, 
and he lit a cheroot and swore at the cook. There was a battle, and 
she heard orders given and taken, and the rumble of tanks under his 
suddenly raised voice. He danced, holding the women desirously in 
sardonic flirtations, and then suddenly, so that she imagined him still 
in his dinner jacket, he was striding fast through light jungle, and the 
sambhur stag was feeding beside the river. 

She waited for the anger she knew so well, for the bitterness. Surely 
he must have hated? All his life seemed to be lust and violence and 
war. But there was none. A hundred names he spoke, and every one 
of them, English and Indian, brought a faint smile and a subtle 
change to the voice, an ache of love which was the same whether he 
spoke of mountains or of the satin heaviness of a woman's breast. 

Yet there is bitterness, she thought, a bitterness too deep for words. 
Sumitra's name he never spoke, and for the rest, all was of the past. 
This had been. For the future — nothing; except the pistol held tight 
in his thin fingers. 

Her head began to bow of its own weight, as though someone were 
pressing it gently down against her breast, and she felt a tear fall 
on her blouse, then another. 

He awoke at four, an hour before dawn. The first sign was the 
clatter of the pistol falling from his hand as his muscles relaxed. She 
stooped quickly to pick it up, but he was quicker. He grabbed it, 
transferred it to his left hand and unflexed the muscles of his right. 
"Mustn't lose Max's pistol," he said. His voice was strong, his eyes 
unnaturally bright. 

212 



She sat down again and tried to smile, but the tears rushed up to 
the very brink, and she looked away until she had recovered her 
composure. 

"I want something to eat. Quickly, please. And I'll take whatever 
other food you have away with me." He swung his legs out of the bed, 
turned pale, and hung onto the bed with both hands. 

"Let me!" she cried. 

"Cook, woman," he said, summoning the wide sardonic grin. He 
bent and began to put on his boots. She saw beads of sweat bursting 
out on his forehead. She went to the kitchen and quickly lit the fire. 
She heard him moving about the house. Fifteen minutes later he 
came through to her, and she saw that he was wearing khaki trousers 
and a shirt that had belonged to her husband. "I found these," he 
said, "also a small haversack, full of bottles and bandages. I've thrown 
them out." 

She made tea, poached eggs, and buttered bread, and put out a pot 
of jam. He set it all on the mantelpiece in the living room and ate 
hungrily, standing. "Sitting hurts," he said. 

She said, "Don't go now, Rodney. Hide in the attic. The new 
missionary is coming in the taxi from Bhowani, and I'm sure we'll 
be able to smuggle you out in it somehow, if we pay the man enough. 
There'll be room in the boot." 

He smiled, his mouth full. "Me, locked in the boot of a car, with 
five thousand rupees on my head?" 

"You must trust me," she cried. "You were helpless all night. 
Besides 1 ..." 

"I know you," he said suddenly. "You were wearing a light-blue 
linen frock, very plain. There were some dark rain spots on it, and 
you were worried and frightened. I asked you to take your clothes off 
and you ran away." 

She said, "I knew you'd remember, one day! It was Independence 
Day. You were drunk." 

"Yes," he said. "And they'd just given me an O.B.E. That's enough 
to drive any man to drink." 

"And your father had been killed." 

He gulped down the rest of the tea and said abruptly, "I'm going. 
Where's the rest of the food?" 

She showed him, and he stuffed it all into the first-aid haversack, 
a loaf of bread, some butter, a piece of cold mutton, half an uncooked 
chicken, a pound of sugar, a can of bully beef, the pot of jam. 

21 3 



"Money?" he said. 

She emptied her purse into his hand— 108 rupees. He gave her 
back five, and turned toward the door. She stepped in front of him. 
"Where are you going?" 

He examined her. "I don't know." 

"Are you going to try to reach Bombay? I can speak to Sir Andrew 
Graham. They'll arrange to get you out of India secretly. Where can 
I wait for you in Bombay? I'll have everything fixed." 

"No/' he snarled. "I'm not leaving India. Now, get out of the way." 

She stood aside. "I love you, Rodney." 

He stared at her in passing. "That's too bloody bad," he said. 

She fell on the bed, too exhausted to feel pain, and slept. 

The sound of knocking on the outer door awakened her. Ten 
o'clock. He'd had four hours. Drawing back the curtains she saw 
three sepoys, and a pair of thin, loinclothed peasants wandering 
round the back of the house. One of the peasants was pointing at the 
ground as he walked. She called, "Wait," washed her face, combed 
her hair, and opened the front door. The same lieutenant who had 
come in the jeep was there. He too looked tired. He saluted care- 
fully. "Did Colonel Savage come here, Mrs. Wood?" 

"No," she said. 

He said, "Mr. Roy put a couple of shikaris on to tracking him. 
They have followed him as far as this. They say he spent some hours 
inside, and then went on east." 

"Can they follow his trail farther, from here?" she asked quickly. 

The young man said, "He wasn't so tired when he moved again. 
He got into the stream over there, and they don't think they'll be 
able to pick it up again. ... He took me into my first battle. I was 
terrified, a brand-new second lieutenant commanding a company 
attached to the 1/1 3th Gurkhas for the operation. He was . . ." 

"I know," she said. "If he came here, I didn't see him. I know 
nothing about it." 

The lieutenant smiled at her. "I'll report to headquarters." He ran 
down the steps and leaned over the back of a truck parked on the 
road, radio antennae sticking up from it. The sepoys and the shikaris 
squatted among the weeds at the foot of the veranda. 

The lieutenant returned. "General Dadhwal would like to speak 
to you, ma'am. He would come down if he could, but he can't leave 
his headquarters. Would you mind . . . ?" 

214 



She climbed into the truck. She sat silent for the short ride, while 
the driver slammed the truck confidently round the hairpin bends, 
under the red-rock cliffs and the tall trees. At the summit, where the 
walls of the gorge fell back and the plain opened out, he turned right 
down a narrow track recently cut through the trees. General Dadhwal 
stepped out of his tent before the truck stopped, saluted, and helped 
her down. 

Inside the tent, when they were seated across from each other at the 
green-baize table, he said, "You know, Mr. Roy can make it very 
unpleasant for you when he hears the evidence of the shikaris. 
Accessory after the fact, and so on. You'd better leave at once. I don't 
think he'll bother to have you arrested after that. Especially as I can 
persuade him that you won't change your story. You won't, I 
presume?" 

"No," she said, "I won't." 

"Mind if I smoke?" He shifted his body and found his pipe and 
matches. His tunic was faded but spotlessly clean, the brass buttons 
glittering, the double row of medal ribbons bright on the dull 
khaki. There was a good deal of gray at his temples and along the 
sides of his heavy head. Like everyone else today, he looked tired. 

He said, "I thought ... I understood, that you were no friend 
of his." 

"In the beginning," she said. She laid her hands flat on the table. 
"General, I love him. I must find where he's trying to go, what he's 
trying to do." 

The general muttered, "Christ! ... I am sorry, ma'am. Forgive 
me . . ." She gestured impatiently. The general got up and paced 
the little tent. After a few minutes he seemed to make up his mind. 
He stopped opposite her. "He's got to leave India, and everything 
that India has meant, everything he's done. He's got to leave it all 
behind . . . all. He's got to start again somewhere — England, Can- 
ada, Kenya, it doesn't matter." 

"That's the only thing he said. What he was not going to do. He's 
going to stay in India." 

The general again muttered under his breath and sucked noisily at 
his pipe. He sat down. "Mrs. Wood," he said, his brown eyes steady 
on hers, "Rodney Savage and I have had a special sort of relationship 
for a long time. He is not just England, he is England-in-India. And 
I am not just Indian, but a special sort of Indian. I wish that much 

215 



of what has happened between us had not happened— not just the 
imperialism and the rest, other things as well. They're all too tied 
together to explain, even if I wanted to and had the gift of the gab. 
What matters now is that I will not help you, even if I could, unless 
I am sure that you can give Rodney what he needs. Something dif- 
ferent from what other women are ready to giv& him. How do you 
love him? Why? Tell me." 

She remembered that Janaki, whose thighs had held Rodney in the 
night, was the general's wife. She was sure that the general knew. 
There was a love almost as great as her own here. She had no cause 
to be embarrassed. She said, "I came out here thinking I loved my 
husband, thinking I had religious faith to be a missionary. After he 
died I found that I had been lying to myself. I did not love him— I 
respected and admired him. I did not have faith— I only wanted to be 
a good and loyal wife. The first time I saw Rodney he wanted me 
to take my clothes off. I hated him and I couldn't forget him. . . . 
But what is the difference between wanting me as a woman and 
wanting me as a nurse? Which is more insulting? ... In the middle 
of that desert where I was, frightened and alone, there was no one in 
sight but him. He was there for me to hate, to despise, to fear. Then 
I fell ill, and if he had not come by I would have died. In the weakness 
and the delirium and the fear— I was very much afraid that I was 
going to die— my intense feelings about him simply changed round. 
Or I gave up the struggle of trying to pretend the opposite of the 
truth. I gave up trying to be loyal to Henry's ghost. I don't know 
much about psychology, but whatever the reason is, the thing's 
happened often enough before. Don't they say you only have to 
worry when the person you love doesn't care, one way or the 
other? . . . Hate became love, despisal became respect, fear became 
worship. He felt nothing. He was thinking of Sumitra, if of any 
woman. Now she's destroyed him, and he feels nothing for anyone, 
or anything." 

"How can you change that?" the general asked in a low voice. 

"I don't know," she said. "I only know that there's nothing else 
but him, for me, in life. Surely, somehow, if I can only show him 
that, he can begin again." 

The general relit his pipe, drew a sheet of paper toward him and 
wrote carefully. After five minutes he folded the note into an envelope 
and gave it to her, unaddressed. "That is for my wife in Bhowani," 

216 



he said. "She's at Flagstaff House. I don't know what Rodney will 
do, where he will go . . . but I think it quite likely that he will turn 
up there for help of some kind. You can stay as long as Janaki is 
there. ... It is also possible that the Rani of Kishanpur may arrive, 
for the same purpose as yourself. I know how you feel about her — 
but, if you can, try not to hate her. She has been as badly hurt as you. 
Perhaps more, because she did have in her grasp everything she 
wanted— and threw it away." 

"He will go back to her," she said miserably. "She is so beautiful. 
They have shared so much." 

"It is possible," the general said. "I hope not. . . . Now I'm going 
to send you straight to Bhowani in my staff car with my A.D.C. Just 
stop off to collect your things. You're packed? Good." He held out 
his big hand. "Good-by, Mrs. Wood." 

"Good-by. . . . Did you say something about Mrs. Dadhwal's 
leaving Bhowani?" 

He smiled grimly. "I have been posted to an obscure command in 
the farther wilds of Assam— a nonfamily station. Mr. Roy is very 
angry with me. But I have a week or two yet. Janaki will come up 
to see me off from Chambalpur airfield. Soon after, she'll go to her 
mother's house in Bombay. I don't suppose you and I will meet 
again. I won't say 'good luck.' It sounds cheap. I will pray for you." 

He ushered her out of the tent. 



21* 



CKapter 17 



After leaving the distraught Margaret Wood and the mission bunga- 
low I crossed the road and a ragged field, rolled up my trousers, and 
entered the shallow Shakkar stream. While night lasted I had to go 
carefully and very slowly. I could not afford a sprained ankle, and 
I couldn't afford to scatter water on stones which would normally be 
dry. They would be after me soon. 

When light came I had covered a quarter of a mile. After that I 
went comparatively fast for half an hour, then turned up a side stream, 
which came in from the east, and for a time followed the bed of that. 
It was a torrent that fell down the high escarpment between the old 
Rest House and Sabora, and I knew that the linked pools of still 
water only reached the foot of the slope. Before they ended I sat on 
a rock in the water and took off my boots and socks. I wrung out my 
socks, spread one over each shoulder and waited for them to dry. 
The old Rest House, from which the hidden maneuverings of politics 
had ejected me, lay due south of me and less than a mile away. The 
morning was cold, not bitter-sharp like mornings on the high desert 
plateau of Chambal, but raw. My wound ached and a mist as 

218 



pervasive and chilly as the caresses of a drowned army surrounded 
me. I shivered the whole time I sat there. I could not see more than 
a hundred yards at ground level, then the trees became blurs and at 
last vanished in the mist. Above, their tops made cold patterns against 
the lightening pale-blue sky. 

An airplane droned over, eastbound, and I froze where I sat, turn- 
ing my head down, before I realized from that first glance that it was 
a DC-3, the Indian Air Force's regular mail and V.I.P. passenger run 
from Chambalpur to Bhowani and Delhi, which had passed over every 
morning at this time while I was in the C.C.S., after the surrender. 

When it had gone below the trees, and I could hardly hear the 
soft throb of the engines, I picked my way to the bank, barefoot on 
the stones, carefully put on socks and boots, and began to climb fast 
up the face of the escarpment. Most of the trees were bare of leaves 
in that season, and I felt all the time, as I climbed up that westward- 
facing slope, that someone was watching me from the opposite slope, 
below Dhain. If they saw me, at that distance of about two miles 
more or less, they could not hit me. But they had cars, and could get 
round to Sabora in half an hour, to Pattan in less, and from there 
converge across my path— any path. My only chance was speed. 

I climbed up, a little to the right of the line where smooth red 
stone and long black streaks showed how the stream, in the monsoon, 
rushed down this face in a heavy waterfall. A long nerve in my 
stomach pulled all the way from my thigh to my chest at every step. 
There was no strength in my legs, and my breath came in short wheez- 
ing gasps— I, who had once run up and down this slope three times 
in an hour with young Ganesha. 

I reached the top, threw myself down and vomited. A painful 
spasm in my stomach made me think that my wound had reopened, 
perhaps forcing out part of my guts. I dared not stop to look. The 
vomit spattered the giant teak leaves under my face, and after a few 
minutes I struggled to my feet and went on eastward. Just here I had 
killed the sambhur stag and fed the people of Pattan when they were 
starving. By that pterocarpus I had waited, and there by that patch of 
heavier jungle I had shot him. . . . On, east, the leaves roaring under 
my feet, earth and rock as dry as splintered bone, and the low sun 
clear and yellow in my eyes. 

After two hours I knew that I had passed the first danger line. 
Sabora was behind my left shoulder by two miles, and Pattan six 

219 



miles behind my right. I had crossed the main footpath from one to 
the other, which was the obvious and best place for them to cut me 
off. The forest ocean rolled away in all directions now, and I stopped 
under a tree, leaning back against the rough bark and staring all round. 
Where to go? Bhilghat lay southeast about twenty-five miles. I could 
not reach it today, but tomorrow I could. There I could find shelter, 
and old Gond women with prehistoric remedies for wounds, and I 
could lie in the hut while Gulu's granddaughters fed me and cared 
for me until I was fit again. 

Gulu was in jail, the settlement full of police, schoolmasters, and 
probably soldiers. I could not go there. I could not go back to Pattan. 
I could not use roads or well- traveled paths. Where, then? 

I began to walk again. There was no answer to the question, but nor 
could I stand still. Sometimes problems resolve best by staying in one 
place and thinking. Sometimes, as when I was in the morass in Delhi, 
holding the body still produces the same result on the mind— nothing. 

Sabora, the McFadden Pulley quarries, and the metaled road to 
Bijoli and Bhowani were on my left, Bhilghat on my right. I walked 
between, allowing the sun to climb past my right shoulder. . . . On 
through the long morning. Sleep in a dense thicket in the early after- 
noon. Awaken groaning with thirst, my throat gummed, and on again 
in the growing cool of the evening. An hour before sunset I came to 
the dirt road from Sabora to Bhilghat, the same I had driven along 
with Ran jit Singh and Max, in the beginning. Heavy military tire 
treads marked the dust, with the traces of bare feet and goat hoofs. 
I took off my boots and crossed in my socks, carefully brushing the 
ground behind me with a bunch of leaves. On the far side I put on 
my boots and went on east. 

A footpath joined my course at a diagonal. Stooping to examine it, 
I saw that it had once been used, but not for some months. It led 
east, so I followed it for twenty minutes, drawing quickly behind a tree 
when I caught a glimpse of stone, glowing red in the filtered rays of 
the setting sun. I went forward cautiously. It was a shrine, ruined and 
deserted, giant creepers climbing up the lone standing wall, stones 
fallen on one another, and a chipped and weather-worn statue of 
Shiva Nataraja against the inner face of the standing wall. Faded 
flowers lay on a stone slab below the dancing god, but when I went 
forward I saw that they had been lying there a long time and were 
now all but crumbled to dust. That explained the state of the path. 

220 



This was a shrine to which the people of some neighboring village- 
five or fifteen miles away— came to worship once a year. Water lay 
in a kind of stone urn. I stooped over it and drank. It was black and 
bitter and tasted of leaves, but it slaked my thirst. 

It would have been safer in the jungle, but the shrine attracted me 
and I sat down on the stone slab, sweeping the dried flowers to the 
ground, and leaned back against the wall, my head against Shiva's 
balancing right foot. There I opened my haversack and ate. 

As I ate the banked red fires died down in the stone, the sun set, 
and the surrounding forest began to creak and move, awakening 
slowly to its life of the darkness. The stone turned cold under me, the 
daytime world of color and texture dissolved into the night world of 
pattern and mass. The bats began to swoop down the dark alleys of 
the jungle, and I carefully refastened the straps of the haversack. 

The direction of the wind changed and in the huge silence I heard 
the barking of dogs. There was a village nearby then, hardly a mile 
from me. It was to the south, but I would have to go carefully when 
I started out in the morning. 

Who could I turn to now? I thought of Victoria Jones, the Anglo- 
Indian girl who had married Taylor the railwayman. She had loved 
me once. Taylor had got a job on the mineral railway after being dis- 
missed from the Delhi Deccan, and they were living in Bijoli, only 
forty miles northeast. Suppose I went there. Victoria owed me at 
least shelter, money, help. 

I turned angrily. She owed me nothing, nor I her. Taylor would 
hand me over to the police, to ingratiate himself with the Indians he 
despised. 

I lay down, put the haversack with its sharp-edged contents under 
my head, and tried to go to sleep. Jackals began to howl their insane 
chorus, rushing aimlessly through the trees in the dark. Far in the 
north I heard the cough of a leopard. The dogs of the village were 
silent. Such shrines as this are usually the home of cobras, and I 
thought I heard the slithering of a big snake over the stones as I lay 
on my back, staring through closed eyes at the darkness, but I was 
not afraid and did nothing to investigate. . . . 

Our campfires blossomed like potted geraniums under the trees 
and Charlie, Beetle, and I were sharing a big bowl of rice against 
the temple wall. The desolation of the ruins, twenty miles from 
anywhere, long forgotten even by the villagers, only emphasized 



221 



the comradeship of our own company. The beat of madals throbbed 
up from the far end of the camp, where a sluggish stream ran under 
a low rock bank. Nearby the colonel was writing a letter to his wife. 
We ate rice and dal 7 and sat back, at peace, in our sweaty clothes. 
Tomorrow we would march to Telaghat, the day after to Charria, 
the day after . . . on always to the day after, the same, and the 
petals of the gold mohur falling in an orange shower over the stone 
phallus in the courtyard. . . . 

I smelled hot steel and oil, heard a locomotive breathing in the 
dusty twilight of an April evening, the metal scorched from its hours 
in the sun, from its rushing passage through the still, hot jungles, 
and rock ovens of the Vindhya hills, over the rumbling iron bridges, 
along the metaled track cut like a sword through the trees, the dust 
whirling in plumes alongside the wheels. Victoria stood beside me. 
I smelled the cheap perfume she used to wear, a touchingly inno- 
cent perfume trying in vain to counteract the unambiguous female- 
ness of a ripened women at the end of a hot day. I smelled my own 
sweat, strong and male, and, in all, the drifting invisible presence 
of coal smoke. Then she went and I was alone. 

Early in the morning, the light vague and tentative, I awoke 
suddenly, in my ears the dying tones of what had awakened me— an 
exclamation in a human voice. I sat up quickly and made out a dark 
figure below me, crouching on the earth at the foot of the slab where 
I was. I heard a low mumbling. 

He raised his head and I saw that he was an old man, wearing only 
loincloth and puggaree. I put my pistol back in its holster. He 
quavered, "Guru-ji, you have come back?" With a convulsive gesture 
he spread his hand. A bunch of fresh flowers fell in my lap, then 
again he bowed his head to the ground. 

I did not remember ever being in this place before, though in 
plenty like it, as in my dream. Guru-ji, the title he gave me, means 
"teacher." 

He said, u Guru-ji, this time you will stay? After sixty years, the 
village needs you." 

Sixty years? The old man was in a state of shock, or trance. He was 
not much more than seventy himself. The dawnlight was growing 
and spreading fast over the world and I saw him clearly, saw his thin 
eager face and hungry eyes. I remembered that I had not shaved for 
three days, that my clothes were torn and filthy, and I myself sun- 



222 



burned and weathered like any Indian. But boots and trousers were 
surely out of place, whatever "teacher" he thought I was. He was just 
not seeing them, any more than he was seeing my age. Time did not 
exist for the teacher of the shrine, whoever he had been. 

The old man said, "Good morning, Briju. Good-by, Briju. Be good 
to your mother. Thank you." 

"Who taught you English?" I asked, amazed. 

He said, "You spoke such words to me so many times that I learned 
them by heart, to please you. Don't you remember? . . . We never 
told anyone you were here. Not once, all those three years, no one 
outside the village ever knew. You asked for peace and we gave it to 
you, didn't we? We have told no one since. . . . You are hungry, 
guru-ji? I will bring food for you! Everything will again be as it was 
when I was a boy, and we came to you and you talked with us, and 
sometimes being children we played jokes on you. We were afraid — 
at first because you were an English sahib, later because we knew 
we were committing sacrilege against an elect of God, but you only 
laughed with us. And do you remember my sister— aihh, long since 
gone!— coming with gifts because you gave her a blessing that got 
her with child? But you laughed again and said it was her husband's 
love that had done it. And the days the elders came to sit at your feet 
when the crops failed, or the deer ate the young corn, or there was bad 
blood between families, and we boys and girls hid in the jungle close 
there, lying on our stomachs, listening. It will all be the same!" 

A picture of the past came clear. A man, an Englishman, had come 
here sixty years or so ago, about 1890. He had taken up residence in 
this shrine— perhaps it had a roof then. He had asked the villagers not 
to tell anyone. Whether he was a fugitive from the police, or from the 
world in general, from his own people, or from some particular person, 
I would never find out. But he had stayed three years as the village's 
guru, the resident spirit of the shrine. The old man's eyes beseeched 
me— you have returned, stay! 

My head swam with hunger, and a lifting of material problems 
which had seemed reality. Why not? In Pattan I had destroyed my 
vision by mixing into it a desire for power. I no longer wanted power, 
or responsibility. I no longer wanted women. I no longer wanted any- 
thing. I could not be an Indian, they would not let me live as an 
Englishman— but a tree, a stone I could be, in this soil which had 
made me. 

223 



I sat cross-legged and raised my hand to bless the old man . . . 

"Grandfather? Grandfather?" 

The old man stood up. "It is my grandson. Wait till he sees!" 

A young man of about twenty-five came through the trees on a path 
from the south, which I had not noticed the evening before. He wore 
trousers, a shirt, a gray homespun cap and spectacles and I could tell 
at once that he had some education. 

He was saying, "You did not come back and my mother sent . . ." 
He stopped, astonished. "Who is this?" 

"It is he," the old man crowed. "Our guru, came back to us. Ah, 
I knew you thought we old men were dreaming when we talked of 
him!" 

The young man's eyes were round and his mouth agape. "I did not 
know," he whispered. "Is it really you? ... It is such a long time." 

"Is there death, or age, for such as these?" the old man cried. 

The young man dropped to his knees. Education had eroded the 
edges of his simple faith, such as the old man possessed, but the core 
was still there. He was not a town man, just a young village man with 
a little education. "You will stay, guru-ji?" he asked. 

I made up my mind. "I will stay," I said. 

The old man wrung his hands in an agony of happiness and tears 
streamed down his cheeks. 

The young man's eyes shone like beacons behind the cheap lenses. 
He cried, "Now we will have a guru of our own! We will be famous 
all over Bandelkhand and Chambal! All over India! No other village 
has an English guru. 7 ' 

I said, "No one must know. I want peace, total peace." 

The young man's face fell. "No one?" He brightened. "But some- 
one will have to know, guru-ji ... for the government census. The 
officials are in the next village now, but they will reach us today. The 
question is, are you in our village of Chahar or in the village of Lihur? 
The subtehsil boundary runs close, but it has never been settled 
whether the shrine is . . ." 

"Leave me out of the census," I cried, "I do not exist!" 

Now it was the old man who looked worried. "But there is the 
smallpox vaccination, guru-ji" he said. "Everyone must have it." 

The young man chimed in: "And in our district the officials are 
making a pilot surwey—" he spoke the words in English — "showing 
exact details of land use, number of dwellings, number of inhabitants 

224 



per dwelling, agricultural and home-industry production per head. It 
will be pilot surwey for all India, so you see—" 

"We will discuss that later/' I interrupted, controlling my voice. 
"I am hungry. Bring me food. Be sure to enter it in the proper 
column in the printed paper." 

"Oh, there is no record of that," the young man began, but I 
waved, "Go, go!" 

As soon as they had disappeared down the path I grabbed up my 
haversack and hurried east through the jungle. After two hours, when 
I thought I would die of melancholy, I lay down and tried to relieve 
my misery by tears. No tears came and after a time I went on again. 

It was a day without purpose, except movement. I walked, saw no 
one, nothing, only two vultures very high in the blue sky, who 
watched me until dark. I walked east all day except for an hour, when 
I got up after a rest and walked west, and did not know it until I fell 
down a low rock cliff. In the pain and shock of the moment I realized 
that it was the same cliff I had scrambled up, in the opposite direc- 
tion, an hour before my rest. 

I do not know where I lay down for the night. It was, like the day, 
a nothing place, nonexistent, and the night the same except that it 
contained aimless stillness instead of aimless motion. 

The third morning, after vomiting, I felt better and ate most of 
the rest of my food, and it stayed down. I would have to use Max's 
pistol — I had stolen it from the yakdan in his office just before I heard 
Roy's car arriving— to kill some food. That would be difficult, with a 
pistol. Or hold up someone, which would be easy, but dangerous. 

I went on east. Near ten o'clock in the morning, the sun bright 
and a fresh breeze blowing through the jungle, myself feeling weak 
but not in pain, I heard the sharp crack of breaking wood somewhere 
close ahead, followed by a scream and a crash. I was going downhill 
toward a river, seen once through the trees from the ridge crest. I 
knew the river must be the upper Harpal. I stopped. I heard a woman 
crying urgently, but could not make out her meaning. I hurried down 
among the trees and came in a few seconds to the edge of the river. 
It ran about fifty feet wide there, between red-laterite cliffs twenty 
feet high. A wooden cart bridge had spanned the river from this bank 
to the village crowding the far cliff. Now the rickety structure, a 
hundred times half-repaired, had broken. Part hung down from the 
farther side, where a woman shrieked and shrieked, calling up to the 

225 



village. Part swirled round and round in the pool below the bridge, 
where I saw too the floating red skirt and hair of another woman. 

I hesitated. Some men were running down from the village, others 
along the cliff to the right, but there was no way down the cliff there 
for at least a hundred yards. The pool where the woman floated was 
a whirlpool, but the current very slow. Even a little effort would have 
taken her to the bank, or to the shallows. Perhaps she had been 
stunned by the fall of the rest of the bridge on top of her. Perhaps 
she was already dead. 

Cursing my luck, I jumped over the cliff. When I came up the 
woman was close to me. I caught her and turned her face up. Blood 
stained the water from a gash in her forehead. I took her under the 
armpits and dragged her to the strip of sand. 

My tiredness had gone in the shock and excitement of action. I 
stretched her at once onto her stomach, tore off her choli and began 
artificial respiration. Villagers called down to me from the clifftop, 
others ran up the narrow bank of sand and stones from the washing 
place downstream. When these arrived I was very tired again, and 
the particular motions of artificial respiration could not have been 
worse for my wound. I called to the first arrival, an agitated young 
man who might have been the husband, "Watch me, watch!" 

"Yes, sahib," he gabbled, "I see." 

"Come here." He knelt beside me. "Do it with me . . . there . . . 
there . . . there . . . Now go on doing that . . ." 

I stood up and spoke to another man. "You, watch him. When he 
is tired, do the same. Let there be no stopping of the work, even for 
a breath." 

From the cliff above an old grandmother wailed, "She is dead! 
Aiiih, my daughter is dead!" 

I said nothing. Three minutes later, to my surprise, the woman 
groaned and retched. "My head," she moaned. I turned away. It was 
clear that the blow on the head had been her main trouble. She had 
not swallowed much water, and would soon be all right. 

An old gentleman in clean white dhoti, shirt, and puggaree made 
a deep salaam. "I am the headman, sahib. . . . She whom you saved 
has five children. How can we ever thank you?" 

I found myself swaying. "I am hungry," I heard myself say. "Is 
there anything to eat?" 

"Of course, sahib. Only our poor desi food, I fear, but . . ." 

226 



"Let me eat/' I said. 

The old man led down the bank to the place where the path went 
up to the village. Twenty huddled women, who had been washing 
clothes, smiled at me. We went up the path in a great crowd, all the 
people chattering like magpies. 

A policeman came running out of the village adjusting his puggaree 
as he ran. "What happened? Is she dead?" he cried. 

"She is alive," the headman said. "No thanks to you. What were 
you doing? Sleeping under the peepul as usual? The sahib bahadur 
here leaped into the river and saved her. I saw it." 

The policeman saluted me. Then his eyes widened. He cried, "This 
is . . . this is the sahib who did the murder! We have captured 
him!" 

"What do you mean?" the headman said irritably. "He has saved 
the life of Nathu's woman." 

I edged sideways through the mob, my hand on my pistol. The 
women crowded toward the policeman, shouting and waving their 
fists. "Murder, fool? He saved her life! He is a hero! A sahib 
bahadur!" 

Then the policeman spoke the fateful words. "Five thousand rupees 
reward!" he said. "Five thousand rupees." 

I pushed the nearest woman into him and ran. As soon as I was 
clear of them I drew my pistol and shouted, "Keep back!" The 
policeman was unarmed, and they all fell back. 

I heard the grumble and murmur of their voices. They weren't 
saying Save him. They weren't saying, He saved her life. They weren't 
saying, Murder. They were saying, Five thousand rupees. 

I backed into the woods and when I could only just see them, 
gathered there staring after me, I fired a shot over their heads. Then 
I turned and ran. I heard the collective rising yell: "After him! Five 
thousand rupees!" 

I ran down the valley for a time, then turned up through the trees, 
and stopped. A young man was coming fast up the slope after me, 
with two companions. They were young and fit and I hated them. I 
aimed carefully at the center of the young man's chest and fired. My 
hand shook so from fatigue and hate that I did not kill him as I had 
intended. The bullet hit him high in the shoulder. He screamed, fell, 
picked himself up, and stumbled and fell back down the hill, scream- 
ing in pain. His two companions were by then well ahead of him. 



22 



7 



They vanished and I turned again. 

On, over the brow of the slope. On, down the other side. On, 
miles across a shadeless flat volcanic plateau covered by stunted thorn- 
bushes and spear grass, the sun high and every part of my body 
aching. On, through the afternoon. On, to the side of a main road, 
just in time to edge back as a truck passed full of police armed with 
rifles. On, across the road in the dust cloud behind the truck. On, 
east, over hill and valley, stream and marsh and plateau and ridge 
and scrub and field. On, until my legs gave way and I fell in the 
middle of the game trail I had been following. I crawled under a 
thombush to the side, pulled up my legs tight under me and passed 
away, whether in faint, sleep, or death, I did not know. 

It was a long straight road on the outskirts of the old Hira Mandi 
bazaar in Lahore. Inside there is a narrow lane 7 stone paved, between 
wooden houses whose upper balconies almost meet overhead. At 
street level the whores sit in open-fronted booths, and a dense 
crowd of men walk up and down the alley jostling and staring at the 
women, who stare back over their heads, impersonal and impervious. 
Christ came out of the old city gate below that alley, but it was in 
daylight, and we were standing to arms at the crossroads, a platoon 
of Gurkhas and my company headquarters. There had been a week 
of rioting between Sikhs and Muslims already, over the destruction 
of a Muslim mosque; and that over the encroachment of a Sikh 
gurdwara; and that over the building of a Muslim slaughterhouse, 
where cows were killed; and that . . . We had nothing to do with 
the quarrels but as soon as we came to stop it, of course, we had. The 
Sikhs took out a procession against the Commissioners order. They 
advanced on us out of the old bazaar and down the wide road, wav- 
ing banners in Gurmukhi. The banners called for Muslim blood, but 
it was not the Muslims barring their path, it was us. He was their 
leader, Christ. He had a long, saintly face, very fair of skin, and he 
had not tied his puggaree, so that his black hair fell over his shoulders 
in a wave almost to his waist, like the pictures of Christ in old Bibles, 
only they made Him a blond. The Assistant Magistrate with us 
gabbled through the formalities of the Riot Act. After that the re- 
sponsibility was mine. Christ walked slowly on, calling out to the 
Gurkhas kneeling in the road that they had no business here. Were 
they not Hindus? He was on his way to throw the moneychangers 
out of the temple. 

228 



I pointed him out to Rifleman Manraj. Manraj jerked his holt, 
putting one round in the magazine. I called to the crowd, but spoke 
to Christ: "If you pass that chalk line in the road, we fire." 

He did not bother to look down, but came on. When his front 
foot passed the chalk line I tapped Manraj on the shoulder. Manraj 
fired, hitting Christ in the left eye. He fell backward and the rest 
of the crowd dropped their banners, turned and ran. He did not die 
for a few seconds, but died in my arms as I ran forward. He could 
not speak but his other eye was open, staring up at me, wonderingly. 

The Governor commended the battalion for quelling the riots 
with so little loss of life— one man killed; after they had already 
killed nearly two hundred of each other. One man, I thought, that's 
the trouble with figures, and in the last resort, with democracy. Yd 
rather have killed two hundred more, but not that man. . . . 

In the morning, that nowhere under the bush in nowhere became a 
hillside of stones and brown grass, thinly sown with bushes, and the 
lowing of cattle not far off. My mind was sharp with hunger and my 
wounds hurt with a dry pain, like a scab almost healed that is torn 
open. I was making it too easy for them, plodding on east as though 
one dawn I hoped to catch the sun rising from its forge and hurl 
myself into that burning abyss. I must have been seen half a dozen 
times yesterday after the episode of the drowning woman. 

I started off southwestward. When I saw a village I watched it from 
cover, resting to regather my nervous strength— there was not much 
of any other kind left— wondering whether to invite a little attention 
to myself, and whether it could be done without causing my im- 
mediate capture. Three times I decided against it— because there was 
no nearby jungle— because I saw an old bus parked— because natural 
obstacles would channel my flight in a certain, obvious direction. 

The fourth time, I saw that it could be done with only a reasonable 
risk, and, after preparing myself, I walked past the village on the 
south, skirting small fields and thorn fences well within sight of the 
backs of the houses. An old woman emptying pots outside her hut 
saw me, and later two men. They stared, but did not come closer, nor 
did they run for cover as they would have if they had suspected I was 
an armed and dangerous criminal. Yet it was enough; they would talk; 
the gossip would reach the ears of some busybody; the message would 
go out. 

Three hours later I came to another jungle village, this one reached 

229 



by a telephone line. A telephone line in those hills usually meant a 
police ihana, and so I presumed there was one, and again skirted the 
village in such a manner that I would be seen— but first I cut the tele- 
phone line. This was a long and hard business for me, since I had to 
find a big stick, and climb a tree, then batter at the line passing six 
feet off. I did it, and then skirted the village much as before, fairly 
close and keeping my eyes sharply open. This time two small boys 
saw me. After a long moment of staring under shaded eyes at me 
across the field, they darted back into the houses. I broke into a run, 
hurrying over the plowed earth by the thorn fences until I reached 
the jungle. Then I ran along a westward path and, after half an hour, 
eased off onto the leaves and lay down behind a rock, waiting. I was 
only just in time. Two policemen, wildly excited and calling to each 
other as though it were only a jackal they were pursuing, came panting 
up the path, their noses down. Three boys and an older man followed. 
One of the policemen carried a slung rifle. I watched them, my pistol 
ready, until they disappeared westward. Then I started south and, 
going with extreme caution so as not to be seen at all, by anyone, 
at dusk found a place to lie, and lay down and tried to sleep. 

I did not sleep more than an hour or two all night, from hunger, 
but my body got a rest, at least. 

Before dawn, listening to the sounds of the jungle, I knew that I 
must get some food today or I would not be able to go any farther. 
I ought to do it at once, rather than look for it while on the move. 
The human mind has difficulty in real concentration on two things at 
once, and if I was looking for food I might forget other dangers. 

After two hours of daylight searching I had found nothing, and set 
off eastward once more. The denser jungles and lakes of the Bhilghat 
area, and the tangled hills along the southern part of the India- 
Chambal border, now lay behind me. It was reasonable to assume 
that the hunters, having twice seen me heading toward them, would 
suppose that they were my destination— especially as the area formed 
a near-perfect refuge, and had been used as such often enough in the 
old days— by hunted Thugs fleeing from my great-grandfather; by 
Pindaris broken in Lake's campaigns of extermination against them; 
by Mahratta horsemen shattered at the Third Battle of Panipat; by 
all the defeated and the hopeless, starting with the Gonds four or six 
thousand years earlier. 

In the afternoon I came to a stream, where I drank, and then a 

230 



road. I lay down and observed it carefully from the edge. I saw 
bicycle tracks in the dust, but not fresh. Seeing no one, I crossed it 
with all precautions, and soon after fainted on an open hillside where 
my body as it lay must have been visible for half a mile in all direc- 
tions. The relentless sun brought me round with a triphammer head- 
ache and a return of nausea, but I had nothing to vomit now, and after 
a time I crawled into the nearest shade, and lay down. A lizard ap- 
peared and my jaws ached painfully. Two hours later, when it was 
crawling about on the rock under my hand and I had not moved a 
muscle, a sudden spasm of effort brought it into my fingers. I broke 
its neck and ate it raw. At dusk a crow settled in the top of the tree 
ten yards from me, and cocked its eye, examining me. I shot it, it 
fell down through the boughs with a thump to the ground. I grabbed 
it and went on east as fast as I could, for the road I had crossed was 
close behind me, certainly within sound of that shot, and it was a 
time of day when many people besides police might be traveling 
along it. 

In a thicket, two miles farther on, I lit a tiny fire, scraped open the 
crow's belly with a sharp stone, gutted it, and grilled it whole, burn- 
ing off the feathers, and ate it, and then stumbled on another mile 
through pitch darkness before lying down to sleep. 

At the edge of the wood, by a dusty road, two peacocks displayed 
before a hen. I had gone out to shoot peafowl and beside me Man- 
parsad chattered with excitement, but I could not shoot. The cocks 
were grave and voluptuous in their appalling male beauty, and the 
hen crouched and waited so tenderly that I put my finger to my 
lips, and we crept away, back through the forest. We reached the 
road near a small village where women bent over the well and 
brass pots shone in the dusty sunlight. A cow had died there and 
forty vultures crowded the boughs of the gnarled tree overhanging 
her body, and ten more hissed and trampled, with wings arched 
into black and white canopies, to plunge their heads into her anus 
and vulva, dragging out long strips of bright meat. The vultures on 
the tree flew away when Manparsad and I appeared, and those on 
the ground tried to, but it took them a long time, like a modern jet, 
slow hop-hop and gradual run across the field, their wings dragging 
along the ground and raising dust as they tried to flap, at last they 
just got off the ground, but for another thirty yards made so little 
altitude that the wing tips still touched the ground and stirred the 

23 1 



dust. I raised my gun to shoot one of the gorged despoilers — then 
lowered it. The peacock is sacred to some in India: the vulture to 
all. Without them, death would overwhelm life. Manparsad and I 
went back to camp empty-handed, but we had walked twelve miles 
in the forest, and seen the peacocks and the vultures and the dead 
cow and the women at the well . . . 

The next day I stole a chicken from a village and got away without 
being seen except by the pariah dogs, which bark at everything and 
so are not much heeded. Again I cooked it, this time by a small lake, 
and drank well, and was strong enough afterward to go ten hours, 
resting only twice. I did not go fast but estimated that I had covered 
about twenty miles. There was no more food that day, or the next, 
and in the late afternoon I came suddenly and unexpectedly upon 
the railway line. It was single track, broad gauge, the rails shimmering 
in the sun, and no one in sight north or south. This must be the main 
line from Bhowani to Itarsi and Bombay. I had traveled this line 
often during the troubles of 1946 but could not recognize this exact 
spot. 

I did not cross it, but lay in the shade staring at it. The heat of the 
pursuit was for the moment far behind me, somewhere in those hills 
which had disappeared into the haze. When I had rested, should I 
cross the line and head on toward the rising sun— like yellow-dog 
dingo, running and running across the endless plain of Australia- 
like the kudu of Africa, or the sambhur of this very land, pursued 
relentlessly by packs of dogs, relay replacing relay, always yapping and 
snapping at their heels until, bleeding from fifty bites in the tendons, 
they turn to fight, and die? 

No, I would not cross it. I would jump a freight train during the 
night, and at last get away from this arena where they pursued me. 

The first train was a passenger, going south. It came fast in the 
twilight, the red carriages hurtling past with a long rhythmic clatter, 
lights shining out from some windows, others dark and shuttered. If 
I tried I knew I could remember something wonderful about that 
train, and someone who had loved me and whom I had been able to 
give something to. But I could not remember, because my mind, like 
a balking horse, came to a point and shied off violently, hurling me, 
its rider, to the painful stones. 

The next train, two hours later, also was a passenger, going the 
other way, still fast but not nearly so fast. My time in Bhowani in 

232 



'46 had taught me something about locomotives and I knew from the 
beat of the exhaust that this last train was going uphill. There were 
only a few carriages and the powerful engine could still maintain 30 or 
35 miles an hour up the slope— too fast for me. 

Between one and three in the morning two freight trains passed, 
southbound, both going fast. At ten past three I heard in the south 
the labored roar of an engine coming up the hill with a heavy load. 
At last the searchlight swung round the distant curve, two miles 
away, and laid a band of light along the rails. The thunder grew and 
I crept close to the track, lying among trees ten yards from the edge 
of the ballast. She came on up, groaning through the night in heavy 
labor, towering sparks just visible high above, where the searchlight 
had lost its intensity. The engine and tender passed, and at once I 
scrambled forward and stood close to the clanking, creaking wagons. 
First came ten or more boxcars, tight-closed and locked; then open 
wagons. After letting two pass to gauge the speed and see exactly 
where the steps and platforms were, I ran alongside, caught a step 
and swung myself up. My wound shot a bolt of pain through my 
stomach, but I hung on and by slow, careful effort climbed over the 
edge of the wagon and fell in a heap down inside. It was empty, and 
smelled of crushed stone. 

I lay there for two hours, while the locomotive up ahead worked 
north under blazing stars. Near five in the morning the wagon began 
to clatter over points and switches. I climbed up and, looking past 
the red glare of the engine's firebox I saw the lights of houses and 
the square silhouette of others, very black in that moment before 
dawn. Signal lights shone green and red among the fading lower 
stars, another track branched out beside us, more jerk and rattle of 
switches. I climbed down to the outer step and waited. We came up 
under the first approach gantry, past the bungalows of the railway 
colony, and from the engine I heard the hiss of escaping steam and 
felt the first grind of the brakes. I stepped off into the black grit of 
Bhowani Junction yards. So, I had come here, where Janaki was, 
whom I had loved, who had rejected me. I would give myself up to 
her— give her the final satisfaction of handing me over to the new 
lords of my country. 

Twenty minutes later I walked along the side of Flagstaff House 
and passed through the back hedge. The house was dark, but the 
french windows on the right, facing this garden, were open. I went 

2 33 



in there, and at once a low voice whispered "Rodney?" It was 
Margaret Wood. My eyes, accustomed to the night, could see that 
she was sitting up on a camp bed in that room, which was ordinarily 
Max's study. 

I sat down slowly, very slowly, in the chair by the desk. "Food," 
I said, and could say no more. 

She was out of bed, hurrying into a dressing gown, kicking her 
feet into bedroom slippers, closing the windows behind me. "Don't 
put on the light," she whispered, "Janaki thinks the house is being 
watched. I have something ready for you." 

"Wha'?" 

"I have, every night," she said. "Wait. I'll tell Janaki, and Su- 
mitra." 

The sound of that name sent a worse pain than any physical one 
through me and I gasped with it. It was the first time for ten days, 
which seemed like a thousand years, that any thought of her, even 
to her name or perfume or the sound of her voice, had come into 
my consciousness. 



2 34 



Chapter 18 



A log on the fire starts to burn with a light, leaping flame as the bark 
catches. During its maturity it burns more steadily but with a greater 
warmth. At the very end, often, it flares up again, and again light 
flames dance along it, and jets of fire, fed by the last reserves of its 
stored fuel, hiss out against the grate. 

Four days and nights they hid me in an attic of Flagstaff House. I 
lay on a thin mattress on the plank floor, asleep most of the nights 
and all the days. I saw, the first night, a high valley of Lahoul, the 
main snow peaks of the Himalaya beyond, and a gray monastery set 
in a stony wilderness. The monks wore orange robes and tall red hats. 
The night I reached that place they danced the devil dance in the 
monastery courtyard. Ten-foot horns of copper and silver rested on 
the shoulders of acolyte boys, they and the trumpeters standing on a 
flat roof high above the courtyard. Long flags whipped in the never- 
ending violence of the dry Central Asian wind, gold and brass 
gleamed in the shadows of the pillars, and behind smoking oil lamps 
grotesque statues, carved in butter, loomed out of the echoing corners. 
Inside— the dark red and swirling yellow of the dancers in the court- 

2 35 



yard; outside— one step— the beginning of eternity, of cold and wind, 
stone and snow . . . 

The second night I saw the Bengal famine of 1943. 1 passed through 
in a train on my way to the Burma front. Women and children lay 
dead beside the track as the train clanked through the hot-weather 
afternoon. Men lay in the fields, fallen where they had been trying 
to grub a leaf from a dead plant. In Calcutta corpses littered the gut- 
ter. I saw soldiers giving bread to children with matchstick legs and 
arms and huge staring-eyed heads. The children crumbled it listlessly 
in their hands— only cooked rice was food to them, bread wasn't. 
Later their heads sank and they too lay down in the gutter. Etched 
on the copper sky over the train, over the city, kites circled, vultures 
waited . . . 

The third night I revisited an orange grove near Nagpur. The time 
was early February— the same as now. (Often during my flight from 
Lapri it had come to my mind that in Nagpur and Chhindwara the 
oranges were ripe and sweet on the trees; and I had to swallow the 
aching saliva and think only of the stones under my feet.) A caravan 
of gypsies were camped in the orange groves. They were a criminal 
tribe on the move, and a couple of policemen traveled with them, to 
see that they did not steal the oranges from the landlord's trees; but 
otherwise the policemen turned a blind eye, and all night long men 
slipped out of the town a mile down the road, and came to the camp, 
to sit by the leaping fires under the golden Hesperidean apples. Here 
bears danced on the end of short chains. A blind man played a sitar 
with haunting beauty. Women lay on their backs under the hedge 
with customers. Their husbands, sons, and fathers picked pockets, 
danced, beat drums, sold arrack, and escorted more men in from the 
town . . . 

On the fourth and last night it was a beach of sand, pale pink in 
color under an early sun. Palm trees leaned over the sand from the 
landward rim, and the sea broke in long waves, alternately blue and 
white. I did not know where that scene came from in my past, but 
there it was— just that, the empty sand, the sea, and the trade wind. 
That was the last vision. 

Janaki's servants were old and loyal, and knew me. No one came 
up to me during daylight, for it involved placing a ladder in the 
middle of Janaki's bedroom floor. The ladder would have been too 
difficult to hide or explain away in case of a sudden visit. Janaki came 

23 6 



up that first night, with Margaret Wood. Margaret Wood spent a 
long time on my bandages, almost weeping over what I had done to 
myself since she last tied them. The second night she came alone, 
telling me that Janaki had gone to Chambalpur to say good-by to 
Max before he finally left for his new posting in the wilds. She was 
going to have a last couple of days up there with him. I wished I 
could have at least felt sorry for him. The third and fourth nights 
it was Margaret Wood alone, twice each night, after dusk and before 
dawn, working on my wound and bandages, emptying the pot, feed- 
ing me, filling the water jug, leaving food for the daytime. I wished 
I could have at least felt sorry for her. 

The fifth night, when the hurricane lantern rising like a will-o'-the- 
wisp through the trap door awakened me, I saw that it was Sumitra. 
A physical shock, like a bullet wound, set my head spinning. She saw 
that I was awake and came on up, but did not look at me again. For 
a time she set about her business, handing down the pot to an unseen 
sweeper waiting below, handing down the water jug, waiting for it 
to be returned full, taking up the tray of food, setting it on the floor 
beside me. I watched her, and waited. At last she squatted on her 
heels at the foot of my bed, and said gently, "Eat, Rodney. . . . 
Margaret had to go to the chemist's." 

I ate. She sat silent, her face averted. When I had finished she 
handed the tray down the trap door, and returned to her place. "Have 
you nothing to say to me, Rodney?" she muttered. 

All the time my head had ached, the plates had wavered in front 
of my sight. 

"Come here," I said. She began to get up, and my hands flexed. 
The throbbing in my head turned to sharp stabs of agony. 

We both heard the creaking of the ladder, then Margaret Wood's 
head appeared, followed by Janaki's. The pain left my head and my 
eyes focused. They glanced quickly from Sumitra to me. Sumitra 
stared at her feet. Janaki said, "I'm just back. ... I have to leave 
this house tomorrow, Rodney. The new general is moving in the day 
after. Sumitra's going to friends in Bombay, and I to my mother. We 
will take you with us. You must leave India as soon as possible. 
Margaret is sure she can arrange with Sir Andrew Graham to smuggle 
you out on a McFadden Pulley ship. If that fails, P. R. Sethi has 
promised to fly you to Pakistan, from there it will be easy to go on 
wherever you want to. Max saw Hussein Ali in jail in Chambalpur 

2 37 



yesterday— he's being let out any day now— and he has promised to 
put ten thousand rupees into a Swiss bank for you. You must see that 
there is no other way, nothing else to be done now." 

I said, "How do we get to Bombay?" 

She stared at me, surprised. "Well . . . that's wonderful ... I 
didn't expect, somehow ... we will leave early in the morning in the 
Ford station wagon, Margaret, Sumitra, and I. You will be hidden 
under the bedding rolls in the back. 'Chop' Wazeer, Max's A.D.C., 
will drive for the first ten miles, and that far we'll be traveling with 
an artillery regiment going down to the Babina ranges. There is a 
police post on the road but I don't think they'll search us very care- 
fully, if at all, in the circumstances. After that, you will be our 
chauffeur, an Anglo-Indian perhaps . . ." 

"George D'Souza," I said. "All right. Get me some clothes and 
thin, cheap shoes." 

"I've done that," Margaret Wood cut in; "everything's ready. You 
get to sleep now." 

"The head of the regiment is passing the house at seven in the 
morning," Janaki said. "We must be ready to go by then." 

"All right," I said. 

The three women left the attic, and again I was alone, in the dark. 

"Slower, Rodney, please!" 

Janaki's voice was sharp. I realized I was doing over seventy, and 
eased my foot on the accelerator pedal. The old Ford slowed. It was 
a prewar V-8 station wagon, much the worse for wear, the springs 
gone, the body rattling, and a hurricane of dust swirling around in- 
side so that the two Indian women had the ends of their saris drawn 
tight across mouth and nostrils. Margaret Wood was in front with me. 

"You really must drive slower," Janaki said, not quite so sharply, 
realizing that I wasn't altogether with them. "The police will stop us." 

There were no police on that southward road from Bhowani, after 
the post we had passed, without incident, at the edge of town; but I 
tried to keep it down. Obviously I could not get away from Sumitra 
by driving like a maniac, when she was in the back seat of the same 
car. 

I drove all morning. Near Itarsi Janaki bought food and brought 
it to the car while I had the tank rilled. We ate later, by the roadside 
in thin jungle. I drove all afternoon, and at dusk we reached the 

23 8 



place Janaki had chosen for the day's destination. I didn't know it, 
but she had driven this road many times. It was a dak bungalow on 
a side road which had been bypassed by more modern construction. 
A faded signpost pointed to Gonaghar Dak Bungalow, 3 miles, and 
soon there it was, standing back in calm decay in a clearing off the 
deserted road. Even the bullock carts used the new tarmac now. The 
ancient chowkidar staggered out from one of the servants' quarters, 
and made a low salaam. "Will you be staying the night, presences?" 

Janaki said, "Yes," and the old man's eyes lit up. It must have been 
a year since anyone had stopped there, except a district commissioner 
or a forest officer, on tour. Perhaps not even one of them. These 
bungalows were built for men who traveled on horseback. For years 
they'd been declining as everyone dashed past in cars. 

I got out and opened the doors for the women. Then in three trips 
I carried their suitcases and bedding rolls into the bungalow. Every 
time I went near Sumitra I felt dizzy. When I returned for the cheap 
cardboard case they had given me, I started automatically for the 
bungalow again. Janaki nudged me, glancing toward the servants' 
quarters, and I headed back there. 

The chowkidar lived in the quarter nearest the bungalow. He had 
no woman. I took the quarter farthest from him. It was the usual 
cell, about nine feet by five, containing a string charpoy and a string 
chair, both in advanced disrepair. Outside, on a small brick platform, 
there was a standpipe and a brass tap. I washed my hands and face 
and went back into the cell. The walls might have been whitewashed 
ten years ago, but now were cracked and peeling and kicked away at 
the bottom, showing the dusty brick underneath. The floor was of 
broken and pitted cement. A door hung on one hinge. There was no 
window. 

Now, in my role, I should drag my bed out into the dusk, and 
squat on it, smoking a bidi. Soon the old man would come down 
from fussing about the bungalow, installing the ladies, and pull his 
bed close to mine, and sit on it. We would pass the bidis back and 
forth, holding them in our cupped hands between the outer fingers, 
sucking in the smoke so that our lips never touched the end. We 
would discuss our employers, the government, the crops, and the 
weather. I could not face it, and walked away. 

The servants' quarters backed on a mango grove. In the dusk the 
formal dark-green leaves shone with an oily smoothness, and the boles 

2 39 



marched away into outer darkness like a parade of soldiers waiting 
for some ceremony to begin. Yellow lights shone out of the dak 
bungalow's windows as the chowkidar lit the lamps, giving the im- 
pression of lights in a temple. It struck my fancy that the parade and 
the lights were for a funeral ceremony, the funeral of the Last Sahib. 
The chowkidar would be pleased if he knew he had spoken to a real 
sahib, a vilayeti sahib. It wouldn't disturb him much to realize that 
it was a funeral he was officiating at. After all, the play's the thing, 
and if it happens to be a tragedy, it's a tragedy. 

The Last Sahib at the Last Dak Bungalow. I looked with a bitter 
longing at the ramshackle bungalow, the faded whitewash, the warm 
yellow of the lamps in the windows. These were mine, these and the 
mango grove, the jungle behind, the invisible hills beyond, and the 
abandoned road. 

The chowkidar 7 s voice called me: "Ohe 7 driver, food is ready!" I 
went back to the servants' quarters and we ate rice and dal off neem 
leaves. The old man said I reminded him of Golightly Sahib, the 
Forest Officer. Golightly Sahib stayed here often. In 1906 and '07. 
Perhaps he was hinting that I might be this Golightly's son, but I 
repeated that I came from Goa and after we had finished eating he 
shuffled off to carry their dinner up to the ladies. 

After an hour's silent smoking I dragged the charpoy back into the 
cell, leaving the door open, lay down, and tried to get to sleep. The 
long dusty day's drive had worn me out, and I did sleep, a sleep 
absolutely blank of thought, dream, memory, or expectation. 

I awoke with a hand gently shaking my shoulder, and a voice 
saying softly, "Rodney." I recognized her voice, but even if I hadn't, 
the dizziness and the stabbing pain in my skull would have told me. 
I opened my eyes and vaguely sensed her shape beside me. "It is I, 
Sumitra," she said. 

She squatted down on her heels against the wall, her face on a level 
with mine. She said, "I must speak. I cannot make you listen. I only 
beg you to, for your own sake as well as mine. . . . Margaret and 
Janaki have made me promise never to go near you alone, but I must 
... I have had three weeks now to think of what I did, and what 
I must do. I love you, Rodney. I did wrong in deceiving you, and I 
ask you to forgive me. I have learned that there is nothing more 
valuable than love. . . . For the future, I must go into politics. India 
needs women leaders more than men. Our future depends on the 

240 



women. I ask you to come with me. At first you are bound to be 
under my shelter. There is no way of avoiding it. [The probing needles 
in my head were without pity.] Soon, though, it will be the other way 
round. Your mind is stronger than mine, and you know the real 
India better than I do, in spite of my blood. You will be the brain 
and the will, and I the hand. There isn't a decent politician in the 
country who wouldn't like to find, somehow, a way to use you and 
all that you represent. I ask you to be my lord, my husband." 

My wound gave me a slow long stab of pain, her blurred shape 
twisted and writhed, though I knew she did not move. Inside my 
head, I could stand no more. 

"Come here," I whispered. 

She knelt forward and leaned over me. The trembling lake was the 
wet sheen in her huge eyes. "Oh, Rodney . . ." 

I put up my hands and grasped her round the throat. For ten long 
seconds, while my fingers tightened and cut off her breathing, she 
knelt absolutely still. Then her hands began to jerk, and she beat 
frantically at my wrists. I released my grip a little, just enough, and 
heard her croak, "Must live . . . not for my sake ... let me . . ." 

I squeezed tight again, and said, "Beside you. On the chair." My 
head was clear, without pain. 

Her right hand, reaching urgently, found the chair, and the pistol 
lying loaded on it. When she had it in her hand, I locked my grip 
and waited. There was no fear in me, no pain, no emotion of any 
kind. As soon as I saw this faded dak bungalow by its empty clearing 
in a forgotten jungle I recognized it as the end of the road. The pistol 
jabbed and wavered against my forehead now, but she was losing her 
strength. Another few seconds and she would not be able to pull the 
trigger. I released my grip, let her draw four wheezing breaths, and 
squeezed again. 

Her head bowed forward, her arms lowered, and the pistol dropped 
with a heavy clatter to the cement. Her struggles ceased. But it was 
not the failure of her strength, it was the victory of her will. She had 
made up her mind that I should not die by her hand. 

For a moment longer the power flowed into my wrists, then, as 
suddenly as the turning off of a tap, it failed— just vanished, leaving 
my arms and fingers and body full of a chill, trembling water. Even 
the final gesture, even the forlorn hope, had failed. 

I heard her slump to the floor. Her breathing was strangulated, 

241 



loud, and groaning. Gradually it settled into a painful but steady 
inhalation. Then I heard the rustle of her clothes as she rose to her 
feet, heard her stand up, move to the door, one hand slithering along 
the wall for support, heard her go out. All sound died, and that was 
the end, the absolute end. 



242 



Chapter 19 



Margaret Wood watched stiffly as Sumitra stumbled out of the 
quarters. Sumitra did not raise her head when Margaret put one arm 
around her waist and under her shoulders and, thus supporting her, 
helped her up to the bungalow. Still she did not speak while Mar- 
garet guided her into her room, eased her onto the bed, and lit the 
lamp. She lay on the bed, looking up at the ceiling cloth, her eyes 
wide, while Margaret sponged her blotched face, and her neck with 
its livid finger marks. 

When she had done all that she could, Margaret said, "Do you 
have any sleeping pills, or shall I give you some of mine? I got them 
for him." 

Sumitra said, "I have some. That bottle on the table." She drank 
the water, swallowed two pills, and lay back. "You followed me? You 
were there the whole time? Outside?" 

Margaret said, "Yes. Yes. Yes." 

"You didn't want to save me? Or him?" 

Margaret said, "You— no, except for the trouble it would have 
caused him. Him— I couldn't interfere. It was between him and you." 

2 43 



"I see/' Sumitra said slowly. "You hate me?" 

Margaret said, "I try not to. Now will you go away and leave him 
alone?" 

The woman on the bed said, "Yes. . . . You can't really mend a 
broken jar, can you? What would you have done if it had ended 
differently tonight? Would you have gone away?" 

Margaret said, "No. I have no politics to turn to, no power, no 
position, no money. You would have betrayed him again, sooner or 
later. . . . What did you mean, when you said it wasn't for your 
sake, that he should let you live?" 

Sumitra's congested, bloodshot eyes turned slowly up to her. 
"Nothing. Leave me now, please." 

Margaret turned and left the room. Outside Janaki's door she hesi- 
tated. But Janaki must be told, and she was a woman to be trusted. 
She entered quietly, whispering, "Janaki?" The other awoke and 
Margaret sat on the edge of the bed and told her quickly what she 
had seen. Janaki muttered, "Is he all right? Will he try to do it 
again tomorrow? Or kill us all in the car?" 

Margaret said, "No. It's finished." 

Then she went to her own room, and, knowing that she would have 
no need of tablets, being utterly spent, fell into bed and asleep. 

In the morning after breakfast Rodney came, pale and contained, 
to load their baggage into the car. By eight o'clock they were on their 
way again through the awakening spring of a warm February day. 
The hours passed in almost total silence. Sometimes Sumitra talked 
in a low voice with Janaki in the back seat— Margaret noticed she 
made no attempt to hide the marks at her neck— but her talk was of 
nothing, things seen by the roadside, comments on people known, 
small bursts of human sound that broke up the inhuman silence in the 
car. She herself spoke occasionally to Rodney, searching for half an 
hour to find something to say, then saying it. Rodney answered 
monosyllabically, his voice dry. The Ford raced on, driven fast but 
safely. 

Late in the evening they entered the outskirts of Bombay. At half 
past eleven, when passing slowly down a raucous street near Victoria 
Station, Rodney pulled in to the curb. 

Janaki sat up, yawning. "Where are we? Why are we stopping 
here?" 

Rodney did not answer but went round to the back, opened the 

244 



door and pulled out his suitcase. "I am leaving you here," he said. 
"I do not need help any more. It will also be dangerous for you. 
Thank you for everything you've done." 

Margaret tried to pull open her door, but he was leaning against it. 
His cold, dead glance turned momentarily on her, and he said, "Stay 
there, please. I do not want your help, either." He walked up to a 
taxi parked a little in front, and got in. The taxi drove away. 

The three women sat without motion for a minute. Then Sumitra 
said, 'Til drive. Your grandmother's house is on Douglas Road, 
isn't it?" 

She slipped behind the wheel, and they went on without another 
word. At the big house they all got out and a horde of women, chil- 
dren, and servants ran down the steps. Sumitra said, "Would you 
mind calling a taxi for me?" 

Once again, there was no argument, no talk. They waited in the 
drive, and in a few moments a taxi came. The servants transferred 
Sumitra's baggage into it, she climbed in with a final "thank you," 
the taxi drove away. 

Then Janaki introduced Margaret to the people crowding round: 
her sister; the sister's husband, a banker in the city; two female 
cousins; a fat aunt; a dozen assorted children, shy, wide-eyed, but 
yawning, for it was long past their usual bedtime; her mother, a 
widow for twenty years; and her mother's mother, a widow for forty 
years and the head of the household— a frail, thin-skinned old lady 
with piercing black eyes and a plain white sari, who said, as she held 
out her thin arms, "Welcome, child . . . you are the first English 
person to enter any house of mine." 

The mother led Margaret to an upstairs room with the smell of the 
sea blowing in through open windows, escorted by the whole family 
so that she felt she was in a football crowd at home. For five minutes 
they all wandered round, each little boy and girl proudly pointing 
out a light switch, a cupboard, the table where she could have chota 
hazri 7 until at last Janaki cried, smiling, "Leave the lady in peace. We 
have had a long day." 

Then they crowded out with profuse expressions of apology, and 
Margaret sat down on the bed. Janaki remained standing. "What are 
we going to do now?" 

"We?" Margaret said listlessly. "He isn't your problem any more." 

Janaki said gently, "I loved him myself, once. . . . We are tired, 

2 45 



and there's nothing we can do now, unless we call the police." 

Margaret sprang up, crying, "No!" 

Janaki smiled faintly. "You are like a tigress. ... Of course we 
cannot. In the morning we will talk, eh? Now, go to sleep." 

In the morning, after the servant brought the chota hazri, Mar- 
garet got up and looked out the window. Between palms standing 
stiff in the airless morning, through the heavy sea-laden atmosphere, 
she could see a corner of the Indian Ocean, and a ship on it, gliding 
out of Bombay harbor four miles to the south round the curve of the 
reclaimed land, drawing a trail of strong black smoke across the blue- 
sheened water. The ship was going west, toward Aden, the Red Sea, 
and England. She watched it a long time, until only the smudge of 
its smoke hung above the sea line, then turned back into the room 
and began to dress. 

As she had asked, they brought her breakfast to the room, and at 
ten o'clock Janaki came. 

They sat in high hard chairs by the window, looking out across 
the Indian Ocean. Janaki came to the point at once. "Margaret, is it 
any use suggesting that you should go back to England, now? He 
doesn't seem to care for you. Excuse me being frank, but it would be 
foolish to ruin your life out of an illusion. The worry, the strain, are 
making you ill." 

"Do I look ill?" Margaret interposed. 

Janaki said, "Thinner . . . feverish. You look now the way I always 
expected missionaries to look, but you never did, the few times we 
met when you were a missionary — twice, wasn't it?" Janaki threw out 
her palm. "I am not speaking the truth. You do look feverish, but it 
suits you. You are more beautiful than you have ever been." 

Margaret said, "Now I really am a missionary, with faith, and a 
cause I believe in, and love— the love Henry wanted me to have for 
Jesus. I suppose it's blasphemous, but I can't help it." 

"So many women go the other way," Janaki said, "turn from men 
to God. No, it's not blasphemous, not to a Hindu, at least. ... I 
knew it was no use arguing with you. I only wanted to be sure that 
you understood what a long, hard road you have chosen. What do 
you want to do?" 

"Find Rodney," Margaret said promptly. That was all. That filled 
the whole of her thought. 

"And then?" Janaki's voice was gentle but insistent. 

246 



Margaret gestured impatiently. "Work for him, look after him, 
feed him, love him. Sumitra killed him. I must bring him back to 
life. I don't care what he does. He can beat me, steal from me, make 
me go on the streets, have other women in my bed, I don't care." 

Janaki sighed. "Very well. Now, how are we going to find him?" 

Margaret could not answer. They sat in silence, staring out at the 
flat blue sea. 

"Private detectives?" Janaki said. "They are terribly expensive, 
but ..." 

"I'll get the money somehow," Margaret said. "I have eight hun- 
dred rupees in the bank, and passage back to England that the mission 
gave me. I can get a refund on that. I can work, too." 

"Yes," Janaki said, "you can make a lot of money, with your train- 
ing, particularly in private nursing." 

"That wouldn't give me enough time, and they usually want you 
to live in." 

"What about the Wadalia Hospital, then? It's run by the Parsees. 
It's very good— and they pay decent wages." 

"If only we could reach him with a message," Margaret muttered. 

Janaki's voice had a thin edge. "What message? That you want 
him? He knows that. What can you say in a newspaper advertise- 
ment that would make him come out?" 

"A newspaper advertisement," Margaret said, "I hadn't thought of 
that. Will he read the papers?" 

"Not for a bit, probably. Even if he does, what are you going to 
say?" 

Margaret got up. "I'll think of something. Now, how do I find a 
private detective agency?" 

It was Janaki's turn to be without an answer. At last she said, "I 
don't even know if there are any." 

"There must be!" Margaret cried. "They have divorces here, too, 
don't they? And cashiers they don't trust? I'll go to Sir Andrew 
Graham and ask him. And then, if you'll give me his name, to the 
chairman of that hospital." 

Ten minutes later Margaret left the house in a taxi, sitting impa- 
tient on the edge of the seat all the way to McFadden Pulley's head 
office in the business district. That was the last taxi she took for a 
week. That was the beginning of an endless time when every day 
contained too few hours for the fulfillment of her restless desire for 

247 



action, and every night too many. . . . 

Sir Andrew Graham ushered her personally into his office. Al- 
though she never said it out plain, he understood the situation clearly, 
and tried to warn her against banking too much on a man of Rodney 
Savage's proven instability and violence. She shook off his warnings, 
and then he answered her question. Yes, he knew of a reliable private 
investigation agency. Yes, he would be happy to lend her money, over 
and above what he would give as a small contribution. 

"And when I do find him," Margaret said, "if he agrees to leave 
India, will you smuggle him out of the country in one of your ships?" 

Sir Andrew fingered his heavy jowls and his Scots accent became 
more noticeable. "They are not my ships any more, Mrs. Wood. They 
belong to the new McFadden Pulley, of which I am not a partner, 
merely the managing director, and that for only a few months more." 

"The ships' officers are still English, aren't they," she said em- 
phatically, "even in the coasting steamers?" 

"It's a dangerous business for us to get involved in," he said. 

"You owe it to him!" she cried. "What were you doing when he was 
being wounded in Burma?" 

Sir Andrew held up his hand. "I will see what might be possible, 
if the situation arises. I doubt that it will arise." He walked with her 
to the door. Just before opening it he said with a half-smile, "I was 
sitting at that desk during this war, Mrs. Wood. But in 1917 I was 
lying wounded and frozen in a trench with a hundred corpses, at a 
place called Passchendaele." 

"I'm sorry," she said. 

"Good luck, ma'am. I only hope he turns out worthy of you." 

On to the address he had given her, hurrying on foot through the 
crowds in the lazily growing heat. A guarded talk with two small dark 
men in European clothes. Ah, Colonel Rodney Savage. Did madam 
realize that if they learned anything about that gentleman they were 
in duty bound under the terms of their license to report it to the 
police? The gentleman had a criminal as opposed to a civil suit pend- 
ing against him. This was a special case! Yes, indeed, precisely. In the 
circumstances, provided it was only information, not leading to a 
situation where their agents could be said to have made actual con- 
tact, as in serving papers or the like . . . Aah, nothing of the sort. 
Precisely. In that case . . . 

On, to the office of Milkwalla and Company Ltd. Wait in the 

248 



outer office, cautiously scrutinized by fat gentlemen in tall hats 
through glass partitions. Guided into the resence of Sir Ramatoola 
Milkwalla, a stern old man in traditional Parsee robes; in the corner, 
at another big desk, a young man with a huge RAF mustache and 
hacking jacket. The old man reads Janaki's note, mumbling politely 
to himself. At the end: "Mrs. Wood, if your qualifications are as 
stated, I am sure the hospital will be only too glad to employ you . . . 
but for how long? It upsets the routine of the hospital to employ 
nurses, especially senior ones, who come for a few weeks and when 
their, ah, purpose is served, leave. How long a contract of service 
will you sign?" 

No more lies, anywhere. She lifted her chin. "I am here looking 
for a man— Colonel Savage. When I find him I will leave the hospital, 
if he wants me to." 

The young man in the corner turned. "Rodney Savage? The chap 
who rubbed out that clot Gokal Singh in Chambal?" 

"Yes," she said. 

"I knew him in Burma. Came to our squadron mess once, and 
broke all our plates. Great binge! Next day I flew him over Homalin 
in a Harvard. Flack everywhere, no joy. Pranged on landing. Kersplat! 
No gore." 

"Murder?" the old man said. "Do I understand, madam, that you 
are associated . . . ?" 

The young man said, "Come into the other office for a moment, 
Dad." 

They left her alone. When they returned the young man said, "A 
piece of cake. I'll ring old Merchant and he'll give you the job. 
Savage was one of the best brown jobs I ever came across." 

On to the hospital, a large brick building half a mile back from the 
docks. Crowds of all races waiting under the trees outside, and in the 
corridors. Interview with Dr. Merchant, a tired, overworked man. 
Talk about Dr. Pallister at the Royal Mersey. She got the job, as 
senior night sister, medical wards. The matron did not ask her why 
she wanted night duty, but was only too glad to agree. Start tomorrow, 
to give her time to get her uniform cleaned and laundered. She 
would wear the Royal Mersey cap and cape, of course? Of course. 

On, back to Janakfs, to eat. Out, working like a hound through 
crowded streets, staring at every face, until an Anglo-Indian police 
officer barred her way. His voice was hard: "How long have you been 

249 



on the street? I don't recognize you." 

She shook her head, a tired hound coming out of water. The street 
lamps glowed, her feet burned. She stared at the man. "Where am I?" 

His voice changed. "Are you all right, ma'am?" 

"Yes, yes/' 

She turned and hurried away. Must get a street map of the city 
tomorrow, mark it out in sectors, search each sector thoroughly. Must 
sleep. After she started work, how many hours a day could she walk, 
search? Must remember to visit the detective agency every day, 
too . . . 

On, through the night, the next day. The first night at the hospital, 
the routines coming back to her hand so that she did automatically 
what had to be done, and between watched the dawdling circles of 
the clock until she could go home. Sleep, hurry to the agency, lean 
over the two dark men. Any news? No, ma'am, we must exert pa- 
tience. . . . Out onto the streets. 

One morning hurrying up the stairs at Janaki's at eight o'clock on 
her way to bed, a hand on her elbow detained her. She tried to shrug 
it off but it held more firmly, and a voice said, "Margaret, stop!" 

She stopped. Janaki linked her arm in hers and walked with her up 
to the bedroom, forcing her to go at her own slow pace. Inside the 
room Janaki said, "Sit down in the chair. . . . You've been running 
for a week now. Now you really do look ill. Do you want to get sacked 
from the hospital? Do you want to make some terrible mistake there 
and kill a patient? Do you want Rodney to think an old witch is after 
him, if you do find him? When's your night off?" 

"Tonight, but I volunteered to give it up." 

"Oh, no, you don't. I shall ring Dr. Merchant and cancel that. We 
haven't seen you for days, your food is hardly touched . . ." 

"I've got to find him," Margaret said sullenly. This happily married 
woman did not understand. 

Janaki said, "See, you're so tired you're getting bad tempered. . . . 
Max suggested an idea, in his last letter." 

"What?" 

"He said that the only hope of getting Rodney out of hiding was 
to find what he cares about, and appeal to that. He thinks Rodney still 
worries about that Gurkha driver who disappeared. Remember Su- 
mitra telling us about him, one evening in Bhowani, a day or two 
before Rodney came?" 

250 



Margaret nodded. She remembered, and remembered the Gurkha's 
face, too. He used to drive often past the mission bungalow when 
Rodney was at Pattan, and he drove the wounded man to Bhowani, 
the man Lady Hillburn shot. She said, "But he stole the jewels, didn't 
he? For the reward that Rajah Dip Rao was giving. Rodney must 
hate him. He was the first to betray him." 

Janaki said, "Perhaps. But Max suggests you put an advertisement 
into the paper, pretending you're Ratanbir. If Rodney doesn't re- 
spond, you're no worse off. But Max thinks Rodney will want to see 
him again, to find out the truth. He thinks that Rodney doesn't 
really believe he did it. He believes, or wants to believe, that it was 
somehow a machination of Sumitra's and L. P. Roy's . . ." 

"What will he say, if it does work, and he finds it isn't Ratanbir, 
but me?" 

Janaki said, "That is a risk you have to take. You can't do anything 
for him until you find him." 

Margaret made up her mind. "Very well. I will." 

Janaki said, "Max said, don't use Ratanbir's name, as the police 
will know of the connection and it's a distinctively Gurkha name, 
which would be noticed in a Bombay paper. His old army number 
was 2588. So many Gurkhas have the same name that the officers 
often speak to them by the last two figures of their numbers. You 
may have heard Rodney call him atharsi — that's 88." 

"The meeting place would have to be in code. I mean, some place 
that Ratanbir and Rodney would know, but would not be clear from 
the text." 

"Yes. Suppose you say, round the corner outside the place where 
he used to work. Rodney would know that was McFadden Pulley's. 
There's a cafe there, a sort of teahouse among a lot of small shops, 
bookstalls, and so on. . . . We'll have to insert the ad several times, 
in several papers. . . . Would you rather I sent a servant to the 
rendezvous? We could describe Rodney to him, and he could follow 
him, and tell us where he lives. Better still, tell the detective agency." 

"No, I'll go myself," she said. "Where's a pencil and paper?" 

When she went to bed an hour later the advertisement was already 
on its way by messenger to the newspaper offices. The message, to 
run a week in all newspapers, was: Waiting five p.m. every day one 
hour in teashop round corner from place you used to work— 88. 

That evening, from five to six, she sat in the dingy teashop, waiting. 

2 5* 



It was a worrying, anxious time, and full of problems, some of which 
she had not foreseen. She had foreseen that she must not sit too 
much in view, or he could recognize her from a distance, realize the 
deception, and again vanish, this time forever. On the other hand, she 
must sit far enough forward so that she could see him when he did 
enter the teashop. She had foreseen that, sitting alone for an hour in 
such a place, she would be the object of curiosity and perhaps worse, 
and so had armed herself with a book, and also ordered a quantity of 
the teashop's sickly sweetmeats, so that she appeared to be taking a 
peculiar sort of supper. 

She had not foreseen the denseness of the crowds, nor their St. 
Virus's Dance of purposeless motion. For minutes at a time she 
could see nothing but jiggling legs, waving shirt sleeves, dark, ani- 
mated faces. The teashop jerked with them. On the street outside 
they hurried in opposing streams, met in tide rips of animation, broke 
into circling groups, rushed ofT in different directions. After half an 
hour her head ached and her left eye, catching the restlessness, de- 
veloped a tic. 

She had not foreseen the bugs. Just when the concentrated effort to 
pick out his face amid the frenzy was becoming nervously oppressive, 
she felt a bug crawling up the inside of her thigh. Instinctively she 
jumped to her feet, meaning to ask the man at the counter where the 
lavatory was. Then she sat down again. She dared not leave even for 
a minute. A couple of young men standing jammed together close 
to her table stared at her in amused astonishment, and she bent her 
head over her book. But he did not come. 

The next evening she doused her underclothes with bug powder. As 
she sat down at the same table, and opened her book, she could not 
help a smile, quickly concealed, at the typically Indian mixture of 
high tragedy and low comedy. The powerful smell of the bug powder 
crept out from under her skirt to mingle with the subtly expensive 
perfume she had bought that afternoon. The men jammed round the 
tea urns kept looking about, and at each other, and sniffing. But he 
did not come. 

The next day, fifteen minutes after the appointed time, he came— 
a stoop-shouldered figure in dirty white trousers and shirt, a news- 
paper in one hand, a battered topi on his head, dark stubble on chin 
and jowl— a middle-aged Anglo-Indian, down on his luck. For a mo- 
ment she did not recognize him, and obviously he had no eyes for 



her because after staring round the teashop, he turned and left. She 
half rose, fighting to hold back her tears. The men stared at her as 
she put money on the table, grabbed her book, and hurried out. She 
saw his topi above the puggarees and the bare heads, and walked 
faster. At the next corner, when the snarling, ill-tempered traffic held 
him up, she caught him. She touched his arm, "Rodney," she said in 
a low voice. 

The traffic cleared and he walked on, turning his head. His eyes 
were dull on hers. He said, "Oh. It was you, was it?" 

"I must talk to you." 

He stopped. "Well?" 

She looked nervously up and down the crowded street. "Not here. 
It's not safe." 

He opened the newspaper in his hand, and gave it to her. On the 
front page a two-column headline announced Amnesty in Chambal. 
The story explained that with the setting up of a democratic Congress 
ministry in the province of Chambal, and in order to eradicate all 
previous bitterness, the government had declared an amnesty in re- 
spect of acts done during the troubles. A brief editorial comment 
noted that this closed the cases of half a dozen men— they were listed 
—now in hiding or in jail awaiting trial. Rodney's name was on the list. 

"It's an evening paper," she said, "I left the house at three and 
didn't see anything. . . . Oh, Rodney, that's wonderful!" 

He took back the paper. "Well?" 

"Please let me come with you." 

"I can't stop you," he said. 

He walked on. She walked beside him, wishing she were not so 
conspicuously clean, so fastidiously dressed beside him, so that men 
turned their heads and women stared at her. 

"Can you smell the bug powder on me?" she asked, forcing a 
smile. "That teashop's crawling with the beasts. My panties are full 
of powder. Yesterday a bug practically went to earth up there before 
I could catch him." 

He said, "I can smell it." 

After fifteen minutes' walk through increasingly squalid streets, he 
turned into a house in a row of mean houses on a mean street. Gar- 
bage, offal, and filth overflowed the gutters, the street lamps shone 
on broken glass and chipped brick, on women leaning out of win- 
dows and washing hung from lines strung across the street. 

2 53 



She followed him up one flight of stairs, along a passage smelling 
of urine, and into a small back room, its bare walls streaked with 
damp, the wooden floor bristling with splinters. She saw his suitcase 
and a chamber pot under the bed, and, thrown into the corner, half 
a dozen newspapers. A single electric light bulb hung from the ceiling. 

"As you've got bug powder on, you can sit on the bed," he said. "I 
have to go to work in an hour." 

"Me, too," she said. She wanted to ask him what his work was, 
but she had better wait. She said, "First, is your wound healed 
properly?" 

"It hasn't bothered me." 

"May I look at it?" 

He unfastened his shirt and opened his fly buttons without a word. 
His trousers dropped and she leaned forward. The exit wound was 
still slightly inflamed. "Turn round," she said. The entry wound in 
his back was clean and healthy, faintly pink, light scar tissue well 
formed. "Turn round again, please. You ought to keep that well cov- 
ered, and protected with sulfa powder until it heals properly. You 
haven't seen any signs of blood in your urine or stool?" 

"I haven't looked," he said. 

Her professional detachment vanished. She became intensely aware 
of the ridge of hair running down from his navel into the dense forest 
of his loins, of the muscled columns of his thighs, the unequivocal 
statement of his male formation. 

A tiny movement in the hairs caught her eye. Her arms went out, 
holding him tight by the buttocks. This she knew only too well, 
from her profession. 

"Oh, Rodney," she wailed, her voice breaking, "you've got crabs. 
And you're covered with bug bites. You must have lice, too." 

"Probably," he said. He pulled up his trousers, so that she had to 
take her hands away. 

"For God's sake, leave India," she cried. "Sir Andrew Graham will 
give you a passage. There's nothing for you here now, nothing at all." 

She waited, pleading silently for an answer. What there had been 
for him, what had been offered so generously, he had refused. What 
he had tried to keep had been taken from him, and broken before his 
eyes. There was nothing. 

"Go?" he said slowly. "I can't go. I'd be ashamed." 

"Ashamed of what?" she cried. 

2 54 



He held out his empty hands and stared at them, turning them over 
slowly. He said, "Nothing. Having nothing. Being nothing. I can 
only do that here." 

She drew a deep breath. "Let me look after you, then. I have a 
night job, too, nursing at the Wadalia Memorial. I don't ask anything 
else. I won't get in your way. I don't ask you to speak to me even, but 
... I can't bear it!" Tears welled up in her eyes. 

He said, "I have nothing to give you." 

She cried, "I don't want anything." 

He didn't speak for a long time. Then she heard his distant voice: 
"I suppose nothing else will teach you. All right." 

She leaped to her feet, her arms out. In the face of his silent in- 
difference she let them fall to her sides. "We'll have to get a better 
room," she said, "where I can cook." 

"I'm staying here," he said. "The room next door's empty, and 
there's a gas ring and a cold water tap in it." 

For a moment she felt chilled; but then at once thought, It's 
better not to crowd too closely on him until he asks me. She said, 
"I'll take it now, and move in tomorrow morning"— she found an- 
other smile— "with a gallon of disinfectant and five pounds of bug 
powder." 

"All right," he said. 



2 55 



Chapter 20 



February: the fresh light pouring a clean Aegean-color wash over the 
filth of the city and shading the smoke to pastel. By the end of the 
month, twice daily scrubbing walls and floors of the two rooms with 
soap and water, with carbolic acid, with Jeyes fluid, with potassium 
permanganate, she had conquered the bugs. By taking beds and chairs 
into the street, unwinding the newar, dousing the frames in kerosene 
and setting fire to them, she burned the bugs out of the cracks and 
joints. By soaking his head and her own in kerosene, by shaving and 
blue ointment and vigilance she freed him and herself of lice, nits, 
and crabs. By miserly scraping and clearing of scraps she kept away 
the mice, rats, and cockroaches. The landlord, a fat Muslim living in 
terror of his Hindu neighbors ever since the partition massacres, at 
first treated her as a madwoman, but now with a grudging respect. 
Rodney was clean, and free of parasites, because she kept him free. 
Otherwise he had not altered one jot. Every evening he left the house, 
walked to the Central Station, and took an electric train three stops 
up the line to the cotton mill where he was employed as night 
watchman. He had originally given the name of D'Souza when apply- 

256 



ing for the job, and saw no reason to change it. Every morning he re- 
turned, ate the supper she had prepared, then went to bed. At three 
in the afternoon he awoke, ate breakfast. She washed up and cleaned. 
He lay on his bed until the time came to go to work. 

March : the heat gradually increasing in a double progression, each 
morning a little hotter, a little closer, than the day before, each 
afternoon a little hotter, a little closer, than the morning, a blanketlike 
drugging sea heat, far different from the sword thrusts of the northern 
sun. 

At the hospital she made the mistake Janaki had warned her she 
would. In consequence a sick Parsee woman spent a night in the 
oxygen tent, and Dr. Merchant spoke in sad warning to her. The 
hospital could not afford such mistakes, let alone the patients. She 
grew distraught, snappish, and distant. For a time her job teetered on 
the brink. But too much depended on it: decent food for Rodney, 
decent clothes, good sheets, gay curtains, all that could remind him 
of another world outside the rat-ridden tenement and the over- 
crowded train to the factory. After a bitter night, knowing that it 
needed only a touch of his hand, the graze of his cheek on hers, in 
love, to cure her, and knowing he had no desire to make the gestures, 
and no love to charge them with meaning, she mastered herself. After 
that she wiped Rodney out of her mind at the moment she entered 
the hospital grounds, by a deliberate act of will, like cleaning a slate 
with a wet cloth; and took him back the moment she walked into the 
street again in the morning. 

In Rodney— no change. He slept in the steamy heat as well, or as 
badly, as in the Mediterranean beauty of February. Watching him 
narrowly, trying to learn more about him, she noticed how un-Indian 
he was. There was nothing strange about his face or his clothes, but 
people always looked at him with surprise as he passed, even those 
living in the same block, who saw him every day. It was his manner, 
she decided. He was a dead-beat, a down-and-out. But those were 
Western words carrying the notion that he had once been something 
else, and, but for his own character, might be again. There was no 
resignation in him, only despair, for he was not in the grip of an all- 
powerful fate, like the Indian poor around him, but in the grip of his 
own nature. 

She noticed also his absolute lack of possessions. Where were his 
medals, his uniforms? Most of his civilian clothes he had lost in 

2 57 



Chambal, and the rest when he was wounded. When he arrived that 
dawn in Bhowani after his flight he carried nothing of the past but 
a wrist watch, and somewhere even that had gone. She believed it 
was a presentation watch, perhaps with his name engraved on the 
back, and he had thrown it away before leaving Bhowani as their 
chauffeur. In becoming the chauffeur he had lost the clothes she had 
given him. Now, apart from the suitcase and the minimum of neces- 
sary clothes, he owned nothing at all. 

April: heavy clouds beginning to move up in dense formations 
from the Arabian Sea, so that at noon the city lay dark in the Stirling 
embrace of heat, and the sun's rays, gray and hardly visible, poured 
out from the stone walls, up from the oiled streets, down from the 
trees. The fecundity of India, which she had once scorned and feared, 
now twisted her bowels every time she went out. There were always 
two or three pregnant women squatting outside the houses, always 
a dozen naked brown babies playing in the gutter. In the afternoon 
she heard wailing and cooing from every window and doorway. Wher- 
ever she turned, women squatted with choli loosened, sari negli- 
gently half covering one breast, a baby ecstatically kneading and 
sucking at the other. 

Rodney had not changed, not a degree, 

May: a sudden increase in heat and humidity, though she had 
thought both were impossible. A short violent dust storm, followed by 
heavy rain, struck on the first of the month, when the Communists 
marched through the streets waving the clenched fist, banners flying 
until the wind shredded them and the rain drove marchers and 
spectators alike off the streets, and ten palm trees blew down in the 
park. The Alfonso mangoes came in season now, yellow, juicy, firm- 
fleshed, and sweet as nuts. She bought four, carefully wrapped in ice, 
gave him two for breakfast, and waited expectantly for comment. In 
vain: he said nothing. 

She almost lost her temper with him then, but controlled herself, 
and when he had gone, wondered whether in fact he ever tasted any- 
thing. His taste buds could not have been physically destroyed, but 
perhaps the nerves that transmitted the sense to the brain were out 
of action, like those others that instigated interest, pity, hate. Later, 
she decided it must be so, for in the middle of the month they were 
walking together to the end of the block, where he would turn left 
and she right, when a careening truck swung round the corner and 

258 



ran over a two-year-old child in front of its mother. The child was 
half squashed, like a beetle, no longer a human being but an animal 
dying in pain, gobbling and writhing in blood and crushed flesh. The 
mother ran out, shrieking. Rodney glanced at it, and walked on, 
saying nothing. Later that day, punctually on schedule, May 15, the 
monsoon broke. She discovered a leak in the wall of Rodney's room, 
the plaster began to flake off her own ceiling, the rats came into the 
house for shelter from the flooded sewers, and a few nights later she 
killed two of them in her room with the frying pan. 

June: the rains falling in their cyclic pattern, rain every night, 
clearing a little by dawn; midmorning rain, clear in the afternoon; 
rain starting in the evening when she set out for the hospital. 
Mold forming in the shoes she ranked against the wall, in a single 
day. The temperature hovering around 90 every day, 88 every night. 
No change in Rodney. ... A subtle, growing change in herself. She 
saw a cockroach, and made no attempt to kill it. Halfway to the 
hospital she would remember she had left the dishes unwashed on 
the table. Or she would look in the mirror in the nurses' common 
room, and see that she had forgotten to put on lipstick. 

July: July 1, the monsoon broke out into one of its sudden spells of 
violence. Lightning sizzled across the roofs of tenement and factory, 
and outlined the ships in harbor with violet fire. Thunder rattled the 
bedside tables in the wards and the lights flickered off, once for a 
few seconds in the middle of an important operation and later for 
ten minutes. The patients grew more nervous and jittery. Lightning 
struck a tall, old building opposite. The building cracked with a 
sound like a dynamite explosion, and then caught fire internally. In 
two of the wards the patients' collective nerve cracked, and hysteria 
exploded. In the morning she walked back to the tenement through a 
battered, shell-torn city in the rain, fell into bed, and asleep. 

She awoke early, her nerves on edge. ... As soon as she had 
dressed she opened the cupboard and took out the bottle of whisky 
she kept there. She poured herself a stiff dram, drank it in a couple 
of gulps, and began to prepare the tea, bread, vegetables, and lamb 
chops for their "breakfast." 

Rodney came in and she indicated the bottle. "Have some. Have a 
lot. . . . Look at it!" She waved a free hand at the small window. 
The rain streamed down the panes, and seeped in over the sill with 
the driving wind. Thunder growled in the distance, clouds hung low 

259 



over the rooftops, and there was no sign of the sun. 

Rodney poured himself a drink. Nowadays he did not drink any- 
thing like as much as he used to. As with pain, and with taste, there 
was nothing there. If she offered him the bottle, he drank. If she 
didn't, he didn't. Once, trying to stir him to show some kind of emo- 
tion, she had given him half a dozen big pegs in quick succession. 
Nothing changed, neither in his manner, nor in his speech, nor in 
his silence. 

When they had eaten she pushed the plates aside— to wash them 
she had to take them down to the drain in the tiny back yard— and 
poured herself another whisky. Rodney rose, but she said, "Sit down. 
Have another whisky. There's nothing else to do today. Pheew, it's 
close." 

The whisky burned like a small coal fire in the pit of her stomach. 
How long, how long? The memory of the night crowded in upon her 
and she felt a hysterical desire to be held tight against fear, fear of 
loneliness, fear of the dark, fear of the vast and heedless universe. The 
muscles of her wrists trembled and the tic returned to her eye. In all 
these weeks she had held herself back from a physical contact she 
needed as a flower needs water. She had thought, once, that his sheer 
maleness must sooner or later break out at the provocative glimpses he 
had of her: half dressed; bending to put on a shoe; standing with one 
leg on a chair to fasten garters; brushing her hair in front of the 
mirror— situations which she had not deliberately created because she 
had not needed to. Living so close, they happened. She had hoped, at 
first almost subconsciously, later with acknowledged hunger, that 
animal rut would bring him upon her. Once in her arms he must feel 
the melting totality of her love. From lust she could lead him to 
tenderness, to hope of a future, to . . . 

He never made a move, and she never caught in his eye any glint 
of interest, nor heard any tremor of invitation in his voice. These, 
and the gradually deepening loss of confidence, had held her from a 
more direct approach, so that, although their hands occasionally 
brushed, and, in those confined spaces, more often, their bodies, that 
had been all. Besides, she was a woman and knew without having to 
remind herself that if her permanent availability and her obvious love 
did not move him, certainly no assault would. 

But there come moments of desperation when one must do the 
thing that is bound to fail, because it is there in one's nature and 

260 



cannot be forever suppressed. As she stood up, her eyelid quivering, 
she thought of Rodney himself, rushing out in the dawn from 
Chambalpur to the hopeless battle. . . . 

She went to him, carefully lifted the whisky out of harm's way, and 
sat on his lap. She muttered, "Rodney," and snuggled close against 
him, her arms round him and her mouth pressed to his cheek. The 
long-withheld fact of physical pressure went off like a bomb in her, 
but not specifically in her sexual desires or in their seat. She clung 
and whispered, kissed and caressed in an agony of love, willing the 
cold body to come to life, trying to squeeze out her own life into him, 
so that she could lie at last dead at his feet, if only he could live, to 
look down on her with the love she was giving him. "Oh, my darling, 
my darling," she mumbled, "oh, my darling, my darling, I love you, 
I love you." 

Thus for a long time, which she could not measure, just a long 
time, until he took her by the shoulders and pushed her away. 

The intensity of her emotion again exploded, this time in quick- 
burning fuses of anger leading from all parts of her body to her head 
and pouring in fire from her smarting eyes. She stooped and tugged 
and kicked out of her underpants, jerked up her skirt until she held it 
above her waist, and thrust her loins into his face. "There!" she 
screamed. "There! Don't you even want that! Forget about me. 
Think of that! You're a man, aren't you?" 

He said coldly, "We had a louse inspection the day before yester- 
day. Pull your skirt down. . . . The purpose of making love is to 
have children." 

She pushed down her skirt, her heart pounding. She said, "There's 
nothing . . ." 

"When you can have children, you can forget that they're the 
object. You can take sex as lust, as affection, as anything you like. 
When you can't— you can't." 

She cried, "Rodney, I would die with happiness if you would . . ." 

He said, "No one can have my child, or will." 

"I will," she said. 

He said, "No, you won't." He met her eyes coldly. She knew that 
nothing of her passion, her desire, her love had communicated itself 
to him. He was, at least in regard to her, impotent. 

She sat down and poured herself a whisky. "What would you do 
if you had a child?" she asked. 

261 



He said, "I'd take her away with me." His hands came forward, 
not outspread and empty now, but slightly curled, carefully holding 
the invisible shape of a small baby. "I'd raise her and love her and 
think my life had been worthwhile. I could go then, and begin again, 
because I'd have something to begin with. But, as you see— I shall not 
have a child." 

"I could have your baby," she said carefully. "There are modern 
ways. One's called artificial insemination. You wouldn't have to make 
love to me." 

He said, "A child that came out of love, of its own accord, not 
planned for any purpose." 

She sat, with head bowed over the table. After a while she said, 
"It's time we both had a holiday. I need one badly, and so do you." 

"I don't want a holiday," he said. 

"We could go up to Mahabaleshwar," she said, "we could go to 
Ajanta ... a rest house in the jungle somewhere. We've got to get 
out of this." 

Rodney said, "There's nothing to stop you going." 

"Without you? I'd be miserable," she said. 

As soon as she said it she knew she was lying. At this moment, her 
head aching from the thunder, her nerves jangling from the night's 
hysteria and the screaming patients, the lightning flashing through the 
darkened wards, her body quivering with frustrated love, she knew 
that she would give anything to be away from this silent, dead corpse 
to which she had tied herself. 

She said, "Then, if we aren't going to have a holiday, we must live 
better. There's no need for you to work as a chowkidar any more. 
Last month young Khussroo Milkwallah came to the hospital, and 
asked after you. I told him what you were doing and he said, That's 
a bit of a bind, isn't it? What's the point?' He's right. Yesterday he 
was in again, and told me they'd be happy to appoint you assistant 
administrative officer there. The administrative officer is no more than 
a glorified babu, and they want a different type of man, anyway, some- 
one who can deal with the doctors as an equal, but take the adminis- 
trative load— the actual buying of supplies, the laundry, the catering— 
off their hands. The babu's going to retire in six months, and by then 
you'll be ready to take over, at a much better salary, too . . . There 
was no chance to tell you about it yesterday." 

Rodney had given no appearance of listening, and again, for a 

262 



moment, the furious outburst against him hovered in her throat and 
in the aching tips of her fingers. Just as she leaned forward to shout 
at him, he said, "There's no place for me in that world." 

"There is, if you'd just take it," she said; "whatever purgatory 
you've sentenced yourself to, you've had enough. And it's not only 
yourself you're punishing." 

He said, "I didn't ask you to share my life. I told you that perhaps 
trying it would be the only thing to convince you. Why don't you 
go away?" 

She jumped to her feet. "I will! I can't stand any more." She ran 
to the door, sobbing in pain and anger. He sat at the table, his head 
bent over the dirty plates. 

She ran back and threw herself to her knees beside him. She put 
her arms round him and laid her head on his lap. "I'm just going out, 
darling. I had an awful night and can't sleep . . . I'll be back, 
always." 

He said nothing. She rose to her feet, kissed the top of his head, 
and slipped out of the room. For an hour she walked in the thinning 
rain, picking her way over the wreckage of the storm, water gurgling 
all the while in her ears. She walked aimlessly, seeking a way of 
escape from a situation which would soon destroy her. Then she 
would be no use to him. Or perhaps, she thought, only then will I 
be of use to him, two derelicts together— but the idea repelled her, 
and she could not think of it as union— the slow sinking through 
turbid water of two corpses, tied together, even though one was male 
and one female. 

She found herself outside Janaki's house and walked in. Janaki 
hurried to her, arms outstretched. "My dear! Why haven't you come 
before? Why haven't you brought Rodney? . . . I've heard some- 
thing from Khussroo Milkwallah. . . . You look awful, Margaret, 
really awful." 

"Give me a whisky," Margaret said sullenly, "please." 

"At this time? Three o'clock? ... Sit down. . . . There . . . 
There's no reason why you shouldn't have come to see me, though I 
understand about Rodney. Surely you need a rest sometimes?" 

"Not if he doesn't take one with me," she said. She gulped the 
whisky. "Why didn't you marry him, if you loved him?" 

"I was married already," Janaki said. 

"Then why did you lead him on? You're the only person he's ever 

263 



loved. You were the one he dreamed about. It was only when you 
threw him over that he went to all those other women. You could 
have given him everything . . . but you just wanted him for a thrill." 

Janaki got up and closed the door. Agitatedly she kneaded her 
small, soft hands. She said, "You must understand, Margaret. He 
overwhelmed me, the same way his people overwhelmed my country. 
I was mesmerized by his confidence, by his power. I remember the 
night ... we became lovers. I'd been out in his car, and we had 
to come back through Pabbi. There was rioting all over the province 
then and Pabbi's the worst town in the country. A big crowd of 
Pathan roughs stopped us, surrounded the car, waving knives, yelling. 
I was so terrified I almost fainted— I, a Hindu woman among those 
raving fanatical Muslims. Rodney raised his hand and said in Pushtu, 
'Gentlemen, you may not have my balls until I've used them properly. 
Go away, and send your women to me. All of them.' For a moment 
there was an awful silence, then the whole mob burst into shrieking 
laughter. We had to stay till midnight, eating an enormous pilao 
with them. When we got back to Peshawar— Max was out on 
maneuvers— he looked at me, and ... I couldn't help it, any more 
than the Pathans at Pabbi ... I just keeled over. I tried to tell 
myself it was a reward for saving my life, but really I was helpless. 
He could do anything he liked with me ... I fawned on him. I 
hated him. I loved him. I despised myself— never him. I had been 
taught never to speak to an Englishman until India was free. You have 
met my mother and grandmother. Of course I had to meet them 
when I married Max, but I never had one into our house. At that time 
I might have gone away with Rodney— he didn't ask me. We were 
both very young. He had his career. Later, when I knew that he 
really loved me, Max had got the same confidence. I saw that all the 
things which had once annoyed me in Max— his slowness, his accept- 
ance of the British, of insults, his oxlike good temper— were really 
the signs of a man who had as much strength as Rodney . . . and he 
was my husband. I fell in love with him . . . What could I do?" 

Margaret's head sank. "What am I going to do? I can't get him to 
live, to think, anything. He won't move ... Is one of your children 
his?" 

Janaki exclaimed, "Margaret!" 

"Well?" 

264 



Janaki said, "No. Both my children are Max's, though you are 
right, I was foolish to object to the question." 

"What about that Anglo-Indian you mentioned, the one who was 
in love with him in '46 and married the railwayman? Did she have 
a baby?" 

"Victoria Taylor? She had no children. But—" 

Margaret looked up sharply. "But what?" 

Janaki went to the window and stared out. "Nothing. I think you 
ought to . . ." 

Margaret jumped to her feet, knocking over the whisky glass. 
"Sumitra!" she gasped. "She's going to have his baby! That's what she 
meant when she said it wasn't for herself alone, the night he tried to 
strangle her! That's why she looked so pale in the mornings. . . . 
Oh, what a fool I've been, blind, blind idiot! Where is she?" The 
whisky dripped loudly onto the tiled floor. 

Janaki sighed. "Yes, Sumitra is pregnant. Her baby's due early 
in September. It must be Rodney's." 

"Unless she was sleeping with other men at the same time," 
Margaret said viciously. 

"You know that's not true." 

"Where is she?" 

"What are you going to do?" 

"See her ... I don't know . . . This has gone on long enough. 
He talked about a child this morning. Something's got to be done, 
and done now. I love him too much to see him fall to pieces before 
my eyes. Where is she?" 

Again Janaki hesitated. Margaret got up. "I shall find out." 

Janaki said, "You will never find out." 

Margaret flared. "Perhaps not now— but the child's going to be 
born. She's not going to keep it locked in a cupboard forever. If 
she doesn't bring it up herself she's not going to give it to just anyone. 
It'll go to someone who knows and loves Rodney. I'll find out, 
however long I have to work. This is Rodney's baby!" 

Janaki sat down. "You are implacable, Margaret. Don't you under- 
stand? Sumitra said that Rodney must never know. She made me 
swear." 

"In case he felt it his duty to marry her? She can say no, can't 
she?" 

Janaki said, "What should I do? What would Max do? ... It is 

265 



Rodney's baby. She's in a flat, at 78 Reclamation Road, fourth floor. 
She sent for her old ayah from her home, who lives with her and 
does all the shopping and cooking. Sumitra never leaves the flat, and 
sees no one." 
Margaret said, "Thank you," and hurried out of the house. 



266 



Chapter 21 



She paid off the taxi driver and stepped out into the rain. She had 
meant to stand outside the building for a time, while she had a look 
at it and rehearsed once more what she would say. But the slanting 
rain beat on her cheek and she ran across the sidewalk, into the hall, 
and straight up the stairs. There were only two apartments on each 
floor. At the fourth, panting heavily, she looked at the two doors and 
wondered which was Sumitra's. One of those apartments would face 
the sea and the other the city. Sumitra would have the sea. She 
rang the right-hand bell. 

No one answered. After waiting a full minute, she rang again, long 
and firmly. This time a cracked old voice from immediately behind 
the door said, "Kaun hai?" 

She said, "Wood Memsahib. Give my salaams to the Rani Sahiba." 

"There's no Rani here." 

It was a new building, cheaply constructed. She could hear the old 
ayah plainly through the door. Sumitra must be within earshot. Rais- 
ing her voice she said clearly, "Sumitra, this is Margaret Wood. I 
intend to see you if I have to stay here a week, or call the police." 

267 



Ten seconds later the door swung suddenly open. Sumitra stood 
there. She said curtly, "Come in." 

She turned and walked ahead of Margaret into the apartment, and 
sat down on a comfortable sofa by the window. Just over seven 
months, Margaret had worked out. She was showing it more than 
most primigravidas at this stage, the bulge of pregnancy heavy under 
the sari. Her enormous eyes looked even bigger in the thin pallor 
of her face, and were further accentuated by the deep, dark circles 
under them. She wore a dark sari and a pearl necklace, and her hair 
hung to her shoulders, loosely gathered by a silver cord at the back 
of her head. She said, "Well, now you have seen for yourself. ... Is 
he dead? Is that why you've come?" 

Margaret said, "No. I forced Janaki to tell me. Don't blame her." 

"Are you going to tell him?" 

"That's what I've come about." 

"I shall have to leave then. This time no one will find me." 

"And after you've had the baby? Are you going to bring her up 
yourself?" 

"I don't know. Sometimes I feel that I shall die of misery, whether 
. . . What's it got to do with you?" 

"Everything. Answer me, please." 

Sumitra shot her a defiant look; but she needed to talk. Somewhere 
in the background, from the kitchenette, Margaret heard the breath- 
ing and shuffling of the old ayah. Sumitra had seen no other human 
being for five months. 

Sumitra said, "It's the old question, and there's still no answer. I 
talked to you about it that day you came up to Chambalpur, but you 
didn't understand then. What am I, a mother or a political leader? 
What kind of mother? It would be no problem for you. It would be 
none for me if ... if I hadn't done what I did to Rodney. But even 
that would be no problem for you. You would have betrayed England 
for him, wouldn't you?" 

"Yes." 

"Without a husband or a home I can't be a mother. I can't raise 
the child and give him—" 

"Her . . . Rodney always says 'her.' " 

"He knows already?" 

"No— just talking about babies." 

"Him, her, I daren't think that far ... I can't give her a home, 

268 



I can't bring her up, if I am to travel round the country organizing 
the women of India, as the Prime Minister wants me to. Without a 
husband I love, why should I stay in one place? I couldn't do it for 
Dip. For Rodney, yes . . . but I finished that." 

Margaret waited till the other woman turned her head slightly to 
meet her eye. Then she said, "Come to Rodney. Show him yourself, 
and his child. I've lived with him for nearly five months and I know 
that nothing else can save him." 

Sumitra laughed rather unpleasantly. "Has he thrown you over, 
too? And you want to see him finish me off properly this time?" 

Margaret said, "You still love him, don't you? Don't you? You 
owe me the truth . . . Don't you? 71 

Sumitra shouted, "Yes! . . . But—" 

"Come to him then. He doesn't know about the baby. But it means 
so much to him that he may ask you to marry him. If he does, you've 
got to say yes. On any terms. Even if you have to give up politics, and 
power, and independence, and just be a woman like the rest of us." 

Sumitra's eyes darkened. "Would ... do you think he'll speak 
to me?" 

"I don't know. All I can do is put you in the same room, alone, 
with him. I know he won't do you any physical harm. I know that 
that"— she indicated the other's generous belly— "will move him as 
nothing has been able to ever since you betrayed him." 

"What are you doing this for? What's the trick?" 

"I've told you once. I love him . . . Come with me, now." 

"Now? No, no. I look dreadful. Tomorrow, perhaps, when . . ." 

"No. Now." 

She put out her hand and slowly pulled Sumitra to her feet. "All 
right," Sumitra said, and again, "all right . . . Will you call a taxi? 
11904." Margaret made the call and then watched as Sumitra slipped 
into a pair of low-heeled sandals, touched up her lipstick and applied 
a tika in the middle of her forehead. The woman moved with an 
ungainly heaviness, and her muscles were in poor condition. What 
else did she expect, shutting herself up here so long? There were 
exercises she must and could do, even if she refused to go out. 

Margaret led the way carefully downstairs, and after a short wait 
in the hall the taxi came. 

At the corner where they lived the driver turned with a look of 
astonished disgust. "Here?" 

269 



"Yes, here. Number 27, on the right. . . . Wait here/' 

The rain had paused and half a dozen women peered at them from 
doors and windows up the street. Three naked children stared up 
from the gutter. Sumitra whispered, "I'm trembling . . . What shall 
I say?" 

"That's up to you. You know what you want, don't you?" 

They climbed the narrow, creaking stair. Rodney's door was shut 
and she tapped on it. "Rodney?" 

His voice answered, "Yes." 

She heard Sumitra's sharp intake of breath beside her. Through 
the door she called, "There's a visitor for you." He might be lying 
naked on his bed. What did it matter? She opened the door and 
slowly Sumitra stepped forward. She could not see Rodney, and 
closed the door. 

In her own room the dirty plates from breakfast cried out accus- 
ingly at her. She swept them up, hurried down to the filthy square of 
black gravel below, washed them, and ran back upstairs. She tidied up 
her bed, removed the tablecloth, and scrubbed the tiny table. Then 
she sat down. 

Five minutes. She heard the mumble of voices through the wall. 
It was hard to tell but most of it sounded like a woman's. Ten min- 
utes. She wondered that her eyes were dry, but they were, dry as 
dust and beginning to scratch so that she had to rub them with a 
damp handkerchief, then wash them carefully. Still they hurt. 

After fifteen minutes she heard the squeak of Rodney's door hinge 
and tensed in her chair. A man's footsteps came along the passage, 
but these were fast steps, unlike Rodney's slack near-shuffle. Through 
the open door she saw him pass. There was a cold set to his face and 
jaw, and pinched lines round his nose, and his lips were thin and 
tight locked. His footsteps receded quickly down the stairs. She 
hurried to his room. 

Sumitra was sitting on the bed, head down. She looked up, her face 
hardening from its expression of utter misery to a cold stare. "Well," 
she said, "whatever it was you were trying to do, you did it." 

"What happened?" 

"At first I don't think he saw me. Only this." She put her hand on 
her belly. "He touched me. He felt it kicking. For a moment I thought 
everything was going to be all right. Then he realized it was I carry- 
ing it. He looked as if he would rip me open to take it away from 

270 



me. ... I asked him if he would marry me. He said no. I begged 
and pleaded and promised. He said no. At the end he said a marriage 
had to have love and he did not love me, and never could. He told 
me never to come near him again. ... So you showed him his child, 
and proved that having me too is too much of a price to pay. That 
ought to be torture enough, for both of us!" 

"What are you going to do now? No, first tell me why you didn't 
get rid of it." 

Sumitra said, "I have had two abortions in Europe. This was 
Rodney's. I couldn't." 

"And now?" 

"I haven't made up my . . . Why are you tormenting me? Why 
do you bully me?" 

"This is Rodney's. Are you going to bring her up yourself or let 
someone else adopt her?" 

"I cant bring it up. Without him, I just can't . . . Three people 
have told me they'll bring it up as their own." 

"Who?" 

Sumitra did not answer, sullenly looking out the window with 
pursed lips. Margaret said, "I can guess— Max and Janaki— your 
husband." 

Sumitra turned her head and said bitterly, "You do know us all 
well, don't you? Yes, those two, and the other. What choice would 
you make if it were yours— to be the foster child of a general, a 
rajah, or a prime minister— a prime minister's sister, to be exact." 

Margaret said, "Give her to me." 

Sumitra stared at her for a long, long time. She said, at last, "So 
that's it." 

"Of course it is!" Margaret cried. "You must have known all the 
time. But I gave you every chance. I didn't cheat. I thought Rodney 
would forgive you, and forget, when he saw that. . . . Now you 
know, and I know, that he can't forget, and if he can't, he's right not 
to marry you." 

"But you think that if you have my child he will marry you?" 

Margaret said earnestly, "I don't know, Sumitra. I only know that 
unless he has the child he will continue to sink into the earth, as 
you can see he has been sinking, and will soon die. But if you gave 
the child to him, what could he do? At best he would have to hire 
a nurse or housekeeper of some kind. At worst he might marry some 

271 



slut. If you let me adopt her, though, I am responsible — and I shall 
never leave him." 

For five minutes Sumitra said nothing. 

Margaret said, "It was not you alone who brought him to this state. 
I know that it was mainly himself. But it was you who finally stabbed 
him in the back. You owe him a new life." 

Sumitra burst out: "But I hate you! Yes, you! Knowing what you 
want with such utter finality. Untorn by the slightest doubt about 
anything. Totally in love with one man, troubled by not a thought, 
not a worry, never thinking, what shall I do?— only, how shall I 
doit?" 

"You want the child to be brought up in India, then? So that you 
can see her every time you meet Janaki, or Dip, every time you go 
to New Delhi? So that you can watch her growing under someone 
else's love?" 

"Stop!" Sumitra screamed. "You can have her, you . . . you 
merciless demon. You cubless vixen. You can have her, but you've 
got to take her out of India within a month, and never bring her back. 
And Rodney." 

Margaret sighed. The trembling in her body ceased, the queasy 
fluttering in her belly calmed. She said, "Are you having regular 
prenatal inspections?" 

"No. No one has seen me. No one's going to." 

"Where do you plan to have the baby? What doctor is going to 
deliver you?" 

"In the flat. Or out in my beach hut at Pabal. No doctor. There is 
nothing wrong with me. I am a healthy Indian woman, and ayah will 
deliver me, as she delivered my mother of me. No one shall know 
who does not already know." 

"You are not healthy, Sumitra. You've got to start the proper 
exercises at once. . . . Who does know?" 

"Max— I told him first. Janaki. Ayah. Dip. The Prime Minister 
and his sister. Now you and Rodney. That's all." 

"When is the baby due?" 

"I began my last period on December 24." 

Margaret had asked the question so many times that she had an 
obstetrical calendar in her head. She said, "About September 24, 
then. Just under three months from now. You look a little later 
than that. You must have antenatal examinations." 

272 



"I will not." 

"Will you let me? I am not a doctor, but I have a lot of experience. 
There might be some simple defect which can be easily fixed now, 
by medicine or exercise or dieting, but could be fatal to you or the 
baby, or both, if we don't do something about it." 

"Oh, all right." 

"I'll bring what I need to your apartment tomorrow morning as 
soon as I come off work. Please have a urine specimen ready." 

"How are you going to get it tested?" 

"It shall be mine," Margaret said. "When we get nearer the date 
I shall have to leave the hospital to look after you full time, and that 
will make a good excuse. I can pad myself out a bit." She laughed, 
almost gaily. "But you must have a doctor. You really must. It's not 
only your life and the baby's, that depend on this, but Rodney's." 

"And yours?" 

"In a way." 

"I don't care. I will not have a doctor." 

"Then I shall have to deliver you myself, with your ayah." 

"Ayah can do it without you," Sumitra said rudely. 

Margaret said calmly, "I am sure she can, if there are no com- 
plications. But I shall be there, and I shall warn the best obstetrician 
in Bombay to be ready, if I have to call on him in a hurry." 

"I will not . . ." 

"You may not be conscious," Margaret said. "The taxi's waiting." 

Two minutes later Margaret slowly climbed back up the stairs, 
threw herself onto her bed and burst into tears, her hands clutching 
and kneading at the wet pillow under her head. 

Rodney's voice, sharp and angry, brought her to her feet. "Where 
is she?" 

"Sumitra?" she dabbed at her eyes. "She went back to her flat." 

"She told me she's living alone with her old ayah, and no one 
else is going to know about the baby. She can't do that. Something 
might be wrong." 

Margaret said, "I'm going to look after her." 

"You? . . . And a good doctor." 

Margaret said nothing. 

Rodney slammed down into a chair. "Then I suppose she'll find 
foster parents for her. Probably Max and Janaki. I could become 
their night watchman. Or chauffeur. They wouldn't have to pay 

2 73 



me anything. I have a small pension." 

"No, you couldn't," Margaret cried. "They wouldn't take you. 
They couldn't! You must see that." 

Rodney stared at her, his face dark with congested fury. "You're 
right. So I'll never see her, touch her. She'll never know I'm her 
father." 

Margaret said, "Sumitra is going to give her to me." 

Rodney's brows came down. "You? My baby?" 

Margaret said, "She doesn't want to raise it herself— not without 
you. She realizes that she can't even have it brought up in India. 
The strain would be too much for her. So I am to have her, but I 
must take her out of India within a month, and never . . ." 

Rodney stood up. His hands were like powerful claws, slowly 
opening, outstretched in front of him. He took a pace toward her 
where she sat on the bed. His voice was almost casual. "She is my 
child," he said. He stood directly over her. "I could kill you now for 
trying to get her— but I won't. You are needed, until she is born. 
But if you try to take her away from me then, I will kill you. Do 
you understand?" 

Margaret put up her hand. He caught it, and she heard her bones 
cracking in his grip. She said, "The baby is yours, Rodney. She will 
always be yours. You will need a housekeeper, a nanny, won't you? 
Are you going to change her nappies ten times a day, yourself?" 

"Yes!" 

"Are you going to pot her, and mix her bottle, and sit up all night 
with her while she's teething?" 

"Yes!" 

"Then, in what place? In a hovel like this, somewhere in the slums 
of London? That's all you'll be able to afford, if you can't work. . . . 
You're a man, Rodney. A little girl doesn't want a man for her 
mother. No child does. She needs a father who is a man, and acts 
like a man, and smells like a man. Let the housekeeper do the things 
a woman must do." 

The grip of his hand relaxed. He turned away. "All right," he 
said, "but remember, that's all you will be— a nanny. If I catch you 
trying to become her mother . . . Sumitra means nothing to me, 
except through the baby. You— even less. Is that clear?" 

"Yes." 

"Remember it . . . When are you starting to examine her?" 

274 



"Tomorrow morning. I shall be late back." 

"Good. Are you well enough trained? What do you know about 
midwifery?" 

"Enough/' she said wearily. "But tomorrow I shall buy a textbook 
and study it again. And I shall ask to be transferred to the Obstetrical 
Ward under Mr. Dutt. I'll do everything I can, Rodney, everything 
that she'll let me do." 

She watched his hard face soften slightly. "I shall find a name for 
her. The name of a flower. A Himalayan flower . . ." His lips 
tightened again and he said, "I've got to go to work." 

A moment later she was alone. 



2 75 



CKapter 22 



Mr. Dutt, M.D. (Lon.), F.R.C.S. (Edin.), pulled out a chair for her 
and she sat down. Then, rummaging around in his desk, he found a 
bottle of orange juice, and filled two glasses. "Why do babies always 
choose three or four a.m. for entry into the world?" He sighed. "Espe- 
cially if it's a difficult entry . . . You look tired, Mrs. Wood." 

She smiled wanly. "I am." 

"I shall be very sorry to lose you. Too few of our Indian girls can 
exert that authority in the wards— like a good sergeant major, if you 
will excuse me— that you British do. . . . You are not, of course, 
pregnant yourself?" 

She fiddled with the juice glass. She was too tired to go on pre- 
tending. Mr. Dutt was a short plump man, bald, with protruding 
eyes and fat, strong hands. She had learned a lot from him. This 
morning's case had been a nightmare. She felt queasy, imagining that 
she might have to deal with such a case alone. 

"No," she said, "I'm not pregnant." 

"I presume, then, that you are preparing to act as midwife for 
another lady, who refuses for some reason to have proper medical 
attention?" 

276 



'Tes." 

"And from the intensity with which you have studied obstetrics, 
and have watched and questioned me, I imagine you are worried 
about it." 

She hesitated. "It's not the case, as such. As far as I can tell she's 
perfectly normal and healthy, except for lack of exercise and a slacker 
abdominal wall than she ought to have at her age. But it's important. 
Personally." 

"Ah. Personally. You know it is dangerous for a medical attendant 
to be too involved personally with a patient?" 

"I know, sir. But I have no choice. If I hadn't insisted, she would 
have had no one but her old ayah. She absolutely refuses anyone else. 
I was going to tell you, when the time came closer, and ask you to be 
available in case it developed badly. I wouldn't try to deal with any 
serious complications. I've been studying so that I can recognize 
them . . . but there's really no reason to imagine that there will 
be complications. Except perhaps that, at the moment, it's a 
transverse lie." 

The doctor pulled a pad toward him. A lurid sun hung on the 
horizon, giving out heat but only a confused light. The electric 
light still burned, though it was past seven o'clock. A long bar of 
pale-violet light hung over the sky to seaward, and overhead it was 
dark and heavily overcast. 

"Primigravida? ... I see. Well, with two abortions she's really 
not a primigravida . . . Pregnancy clinically confirmed? Blood pres- 
sure . . . Date of commencement of last period . . ." 

Her weariness faded as she plunged into the familiar technicalities. 
Height of the fundus of the uterus. Pelvic measurements. Ah, a good 
gynecoid arch! Mr. Dutt beamed. His voice became lyrical and his 
eyes sparkled over a good gynecoid arch the way other men's did 
over a pair of long, well-shaped legs. . . . General health and mental 
attitude. H'm, that's bad. Drugs. Get these at the dispensary. Doesn't 
seem to be anything to worry about, except— except perhaps the 
dates, coupled with the transverse lie. And didn't you say you 
thought, at first, she might be further advanced? Well, an obstinate 
transverse presentation can be dangerous. If it's still obstinate close 
to term it ought to be corrected by version . . . 

The doctor stood up, yawning. "Excuse me . . . And, Mrs. 
Wood— do please have the courage to ignore the patient's protests 
the moment you have any doubts. Millions of women have been 

277 



happily delivered by midwives far less competent than you, and 
thousands have died though treated by doctors far more competent 
than I . . . but there is a middle ground, not large in percentage but 
far too large in terms of human suffering, when you think what a 
baby really is— our projected selves, our dreams, our hopes, our 
future— where a midwife can do nothing, a doctor, perhaps, can . . . 
I am at your service whenever an emergency develops— preferably 
before that. Good luck, in everything, and thank you for all that you 
have done for me— all of us— here at Wadalia. Are you going to see 
the patient now? . . . Good. Give me a ring at eight p.m. Or come 
round, if you want to." 

Half an hour later, the prescriptions made up and stowed into her 
capacious handbag, Margaret left the hospital. She ate ''supper" in 
a nearby cafe, as was her custom on days when she visited Sumitra. 
Out in the streets the air felt even more close and oppressive than 
in the hospital. The violet light had turned to a dull purple and was 
spreading slowly upward across the sky from the west, though no 
breeze stirred at street level. The sun had vanished. 

She took the bus, as usual, to the corner nearest Sumitra's apart- 
ment, and walked along the familiar street, through the door, and 
up the stairs. The old ayah greeted her with a small softening of her 
wrinkled face. Margaret thought that in herself the old woman wanted 
to like her, but Sumitra's attitude made it impossible for her to show 
it. Perhaps also she resented the Englishwoman with her Western 
notions interfering in a responsibility that had been hers alone. 

She entered the big room, and almost before she was inside the door 
Sumitra cried, "You again? I don't want to be examined today." 

Her voice was ill-tempered and the dark rings very noticeable under 
her eyes. She lay on a couch under the window, her feet up on 
cushions, her belly rising in a hump in front of her, her hands 
stretched over it, not calmly or protectively, but with fingers out- 
spread, in anger. 

Margaret said, "I'm afraid I must. It won't last much longer." 

She went to the closet and got out the brown suitcase which she 
had stocked with all the necessities of private midwifery. She washed 
her hands and prepared for examination, while Sumitra pulled up 
her sari and lay back, staring at the ceiling. 

Margaret set to work. Half an hour later she had half convinced 
herself that Sumitra must be wrong with her dates. She had looked 

278 



for the signs that Dutt had told her of; she had measured and pal- 
pated; and she felt sure— almost. 

After helping the other woman rearrange her clothes, she sat down 
opposite her on a hard chair. "I forgot to ask you your full menstrual 
history, in the beginning. Are you normally regular or irregular?" 

"What on earth has that got to do with it now? Will you never 
stop asking me questions, pawing and pushing? You're not a doctor, 
what do you know about it? . . . Oh, all right. I have always been 
irregular." 

"Have you ever had any flow which you have mistaken for a 
period, but which later turned out not to be?" 

"Yes. When I was seventeen my mother took me to a doctor for 
it. I used to have two-day hemorrhages in the middle of periods. The 
doctor said there was no physical cause, it was due to nerves. I was 
very unhappy at the time." 

"Now— the period from which we are basing our calculations, the 
one of December 24. Was that on time? How long did it last?" 

"Yes. No. How can I remember?" 

"I'm sure you can remember if you try. A woman who thinks she 
is pregnant by her lover is going to remember very well." 

Sumitra glared at her. "It was ten days late. It lasted two days." 

Margaret leaned back. Suppose it had not been a period at all, but 
a hemorrhage? Then the calculations should be made not from 
Dem ember 24 but from the last true period before— November 17. 
In that case Sumitra was at or past term now. 

"You're dripping sweat onto my feet," Sumitra said, "sit farther 
away, please." 

"I'm sorry. It's awfully hot." She mopped her forehead. 

"What's the matter?" Sumitra said. "Is there something wrong?" 

Margaret rose and found a smile. "Nothing at all, that I know of. 
But you may be closer to term than we thought. If you are, then we 
ought to get a doctor to alter the lie of the baby. It's lying across 
instead of head down. It's simple to move before labor begins." 

"No," Sumitra said. "Ayah will be quite capable of dealing with it, 
even if you aren't. She looked at me only yesterday and said it was 
fine. I don't think you know what you're talking about." 

Margaret controlled herself with a huge effort. She said, "Wouldn't 
it be much wiser to get another nurse instead of me? I can find a good 
one for you without any trouble . . ." 

279 



"No." 

Margaret let the sweat run down her cheeks. "Please, Sumitra, let 
me get a doctor, now. You may need one badly/' 

"For the last time, no! You shall deliver the baby, and if you do 
make a mess of it— how wonderful that will be, won't it? Or suppose 
it's born a cripple. Or an idiot. It's yours already, you see. I don't 
care. I just have to lie here and grow it and give it to you." 

Margaret repacked the case, and stowed it in the closet. Sumitra 
lay silent under the window, staring at the ceiling. Margaret turned 
to go. Ayah opened the door for her and she went out. 

Her clothes were soaked through with sweat when she reached the 
tenement, and the purple-banded sky was dark violet in the lower 
segment, black as pitch to the west. The landlord was standing on 
the front step when she entered. He waved a hand at the sky: 
"Storm coming." 

She nodded and forced her weary legs up the stairs. She prayed 
that Rodney was asleep. These days he had to make his own meals. 
The dirty plates greeted her— let them lie. This was her last day of 
treble responsibility, thank God. From tomorrow, there would be 
only Rodney and Sumitra. She pulled off her clothes and fell into 
bed. Must call Mr. Dutt at eight. 

A heavy shaking and roaring awakened her, and a ketchup bottle 
fell off a shelf, smashing on the floor. She tumbled out of bed, her 
head aching, and slammed the creaky window down against the 
violence of the wind. The sky was now totally dark except for a thin 
red line across the center of the sky. She switched on the light and 
found her watch. Half past five. The window rattled, the walls shook. 
She found pan, bucket, and cloth and began to clean up the mess. 
The door opened and Rodney stalked in. 

"You were late getting back this morning," he said, "I fell asleep 
waiting for you." 

She said, "Mr. Dutt kept me, and then I had to spend longer 
than usual with Sumitra." 

"Why. How is it?" 

She wrapped the mess into newspapers, dropped it into the bucket, 
sat down, and tried to explain her doubts. He listened intently. Ever 
since the day of Sumitra's visit he had eaten little and, though now 
suddenly beginning to take care of his person and clothes, he had 
thinned and his eyes had developed a starved, luminous intensity. His 

280 



movements had become sharp and jerky, and when he spoke it was 
in clipped phrases. 

She ended: 'There might be no cause for worry. But I'm going 
to go and see Mr. Dutt, because a transverse lie at term can be 
dangerous. The uterus . . ." 

"Call it the baby, for God's sake." 

She put out her hand. "Rodney, it isn't a baby yet. It's a fetus, 
inside a uterus. Even if you don't think of it like that, and Sumitra 
doesn't want to— mothers never do— I have to. . . . She's in a bad 
state. She ought to be living with a friend, someone she can talk to." 

Rodney stared at her. The longing came over her that he might 
look at her like that about her own baby— distraught, intense, in- 
volved. It would not do to think about it. He shook off her hand and 
began to pace the floor. 

He said, "This damned foolishness has gone on long enough. If 
there's the slightest doubt, she's got to have a doctor." 

Margaret said, "I told you, I'm going to see Mr. Dutt. But what 
can he do if she refuses to let him examine her, even let him into the 
room?" 

"Why don't you smuggle him in? Hide him in the cupboard 
where he can see?" 

She smiled wanly. "That's impossible. ... If we could only carry 
out an X-ray examination, we would know what we needed to know." 

"She's got to go to hospital for that. . . . I've got it! Make her ill. 
Give her something that will make her feel so awful she'll want 
to go to hospital. Once she's there the rest's easy. Put her out, for 
Christ's sake. Give her a knockout drop and have the ambulance 
waiting outside." 

"I can't do any of those things," she said, marveling at his per- 
sistence. "There's no illness I could induce, no drug I could give her, 
which might not harm the fetus at this stage." 

"No, not that. All right, I'll go and see her. There's nothing else 
for it. I'll take her to hospital by force." 

"That would really harm the— the baby." 

"I'll . . . I'll promise to marry her. I can't stand this." 

Margaret turned away and began to dress. The misery didn't seem 
any greater than usual. Perhaps Sumitra had been working toward this 
all the time. 

Rodney said, "I hate her, but ... the baby. I'm going round 

281 



there now. You'd better not come with me. I'll have her at the 
hospital by eight." 

The door slammed behind him. She sat, unseeing, at the table 
until half the window shattered and burst into the room on the wings 
of a shrieking wind. She went again to her brush and swept up the 
glass. There was nothing to be done about the window. She pulled 
her bed farther from it and anchored all light objects under pots and 
shoes. The wind lifted the bedclothes in long waves and, under its 
howling, in the blackness outside, she heard isolated shouts of fear 
and the crash of a falling chimney pot. She tried to cook her evening 
meal, but the wind blew sparks and burning charcoal sticks round 
the room, so she doused the fire, found some bread, and ate that 
with butter and jam. The milk had turned rancid and she could not 
make tea. Twice the light went out and twice came on again. The 
third time it did not come on. 

After an hour and a half of waiting, ten minutes after the light 
finally failed, she saw a taxi struggling up the street, almost like a 
man bent against the wind. It stopped and Rodney jumped out. 
She caught a glimpse of his set face as he hurried across the sidewalk. 
The taxi waited. 

He burst in. "She's gone. Come on." 

"Where?" 

"Ayah doesn't know. Come on." 

She followed him down the stairs, and into the taxi. The taxi 
drove off, the driver shouting over his shoulder, "This is my last trip 
today, even with double fares. Look at that ..." A chute of heavy 
slates whistled diagonally across the street, ripped bodily off one roof 
and sent like shell fire against the upper front of the house opposite, 
thence to fall shattered onto the sidewalk. Huge drops of rain began 
to spatter against the windows. 

At the apartment house Rodney said, "Wait here." 

The driver shook his head. "I'm not waiting, sahib. I didn't want 
to wait back there." Before Rodney could pay him he slammed the 
car into gear and raced away down the street. 

Up in Sumitra's apartment the walls creaked under the wind. 
Ayah squatted in a corner looking fearfully at the blind windows and 
the darkness beyond. Here the lights still burned. 

"Rani Sahiba wapas nahin agya?" 

The ayah rose, pressing her bony hands together. Her face was 
clammed with fear. "Nahin, sahib." 

282 



Rodney flung himself into a chair. "She left here about five o'clock. 
She told ayah she was going for a walk. That's all. The chowkidar 
didn't see her go out. No one did. . . . She might be taking shelter 
from the storm, but I don't think so. The storm had just started by 
then. She went out into it. Where?" 

"Janaki's?" 

Rodney grabbed the telephone. "What's the number?" 

"24096." 

He dialed and soon after spoke in Hindi. He put the phone down. 
"Janaki's out of Bombay, visiting relatives. But Sumitra is not there, 
and has not been." He turned to the ayah and Margaret could under- 
stand he was asking her who else had visited the flat. 

"No one," the ayah wailed, "no one!" 

The lights failed. Ayah moaned. A long torrent of lightning poured 
slowly down the sky and in its glare Margaret saw the sea stretching 
away in violet and white, running mountain high toward the black 
outline of harbor and city to the left. 

Rodney spoke out of the darkness: "How long do we wait here? 
And then, what do we do? . . . Nearly eight o'clock. The telephone's 
going to go any moment. Use it while we can. Get onto Dutt." 

He lit a match and she dialed quickly, asking, "What am I to say?" 

"Tell him first what you learned this morning . . ." Margaret held 
up her hand. "Mr. Dutt? It's Margaret Wood . . ." Quickly she 
gave him the details. The surgeon's voice was strained. "Get her to 
the hospital, Mrs. Wood. She must be put under the care of an 
obstetrician." 

Rodney, listening with his head close to hers, took the phone 
from her. "This is Rodney Savage, doctor," he said, "the woman is 
Sumitra, Rani of Kishanpur." 

She heard Dutt's gasp, the Bengal accent suddenly strong. "Oah, 
my Goad!" 

Rodney continued harshly: "The baby is mine. Sumitra's dis- 
appeared. Went out at five. Please get all your things, come round 
here in your car, and we'll go and find her." 

"It is impossible." Mr. Dutt's voice was faint but decisive as she 
strained to hear. "I have every sympathy with you, but I cannot 
spend my time looking for a lady who may not be in urgent need of 
my help if we do find her, while half a dozen women are even now 
awaiting my attentions. I am going to the hospital now." 

"You've got to come here," Rodney snarled. 

283 



"I cannot/' the doctor said. 'Tut Mrs. Wood on the line/' His 
voice was loud and emphatic in her ear: "Mrs. Wood, the storm has 
produced a rush of cases, prematures, frightened women who weren't 
going to have a doctor and now want one, miscarriages . . . They're 
snowed under at every hospital in Bombay. Find the Rani and take 
her to the nearest hospital. Then ring me. Good luck." The phone 
went silent. 

Rodney glowered at her, his eyes shining in the lightning with a 
luminous glow. 

She said, "What about the police?" 

"Not a hope. They'll be even busier than the doctors. . . . We'll 
go to Janaki's. Someone there might know where she'd go. Come on." 

"Wait!" She dragged out the midwife's case, and he snatched it 
from her. They ran down the stairs and into the street. "No taxis 
now," Rodney yelled. His hand pressed hard on her shoulder, 
forcing her forward into the lashing rain and wind. 

"This is a hurricane," he shouted. They struggled to run against 
the wind along the esplanade, but could only make the slow and 
painful progress of mountain climbers against a blizzard. On the left 
the sea battered against the stone retaining wall. Every few seconds, 
with a heavy shudder that shook the stone under their feet, a wave 
smashed over the top and poured in dirty yellow froth across the 
roadway. A few street lights still shone, though most had their 
glasses smashed and one lay twisted like spaghetti in the middle of 
the road. Once a fire engine passed, its bell clanging, but it was going 
in the opposite direction. 

After half an hour they reached Douglas Road. There the tall 
concrete apartments sheltered the road from the wind, and it was 
easier to breathe. They leaned against a wall and rested. The water 
poured from Rodney's hair and clothes as though he had just climbed 
out of a swimming pool. His eyes burned dully behind the curtain 
of drops falling from his eyebrows. He said, "Is this case waterproof?" 

"Not very," she shouted back, "I never expected I would have to 
take it out in anything like this." 

"Come on." He lifted the case, grabbed her hand, and pulled her 
on down the road, now at a run. Fronds and boughs of coconut palms 
littered the street, and a small car stood in the middle of the 
sidewalk. 

At Janaki's house they had to pull four times on the old-fashioned 

284 



bell and shout and hammer for a minute on the locked and bolted 
front door. Then the door burst open, held feebly by three strug- 
gling women and two children against the force of the wind. They 
shot in like projectiles, followed by a shout of the wind and a gunshot 
spray of palm fronds, mud, and water. Rodney put down the suitcase 
and applied his shoulder to the door. Slowly they forced it shut and 
slammed the bolts into place. 

Janaki's mother stood near, wringing her hands and crying out in 
Hindi, "Ah, Margaret! What misery! What is the matter?" 

Rodney turned to her. "It is Sumitra, ma-ji, the Rani Sahiba. She 
has gone . . ." 

Margaret interposed. "She doesn't know." 

Rodney said, "She is going to have a baby." 

"Atihl In this night?" 

"We don't know. She has run away from the flat where she was 
hiding. Do you know where she could have gone?" 

The old woman waved her hands. "I don't know. I have only met 
her two or three times, in the old days. If Janaki were here . . . She is 
not far, in Panvel ... If only we could telephone . . . Bring 
towels, children, bring hot tea. Bring your aunt's whisky. My poor 
friends . . ." 

"We cannot stay, ma-ji," Rodney said, "you have no idea where 
she can have gone?" 

A dozen women and children and two or three servants were 
crowded in the hall round the two soaked English. They all stood 
in a widening pool of water, the sound of the hurricane increasing 
outside. 

"Wait!" Margaret cried. "When she first came to our house, and I 
asked her where she would have the baby she said, at the flat or' 
. . . somewhere, a beach hut . . ." 

"Juhu?" 

"No, I would have known that. Oh, I can't remember the name." 

A thin old voice cut in. "Of whom do you speak?" 

The dense crowd parted. Janaki's grandmother stood on the stairs, 
all in white, her thin white hair drawn tightly back from her fore- 
head, her sari looped lightly over it, for she was in the presence of a 
man of her own class. She made a short namasti to him, then her 
head went up. Rodney knelt quickly, and touched his hand to her 
emaciated foot. He rose. "You are Janaki's grandmother, bari-md?" 

285 



"Yes." 

"I am Rodney Savage." 

The hooded old eyes opened with a sudden flash. "Ah! Of you, 
she spoke, to me, once. To me, alone/' 

"Bari-md, we talk of Sumitra, Rani of Kishanpur. Do you know 
where she or her family have a beach hut?" 

The white head nodded slowly. "Certainly. At Pabal." 

"Where is that, bari-ma?" 

"It is near Alkhuti. The road turns off at Khed. It is twenty-five 
miles from here." 

"I know it," a tall girl of about sixteen broke in, blushing furiously. 
"It is a sort of little peninsula, an island at high tide and in the rains. 
There are four huts on it. I have been there, but did not know that 
one of the huts belonged to the Rani Sahiba." 

Rodney said, "Bari-ma 7 is there a car here we can borrow? We must 
get out there at once." 

The mother cried, "In this? It is madness, children! Wait till 
tomorrow. Get . . ." 

The old matriarch raised a wrinkled, spotted claw of a hand. "There 
is my son-in-law's car. Take that. You, you— see that it is filled with 
petrol." 

Rodney knelt again, and again touched the old woman's foot. She 
put her hand lightly on the top of his head, and then he stood up. 
He picked up the suitcase, and turned to Margaret. "Come on." 

She said, "Wait!" She turned to the young girl. "Do they have 
electric light out there?" 

"Oh, no!" 

"Fresh water?" 

The girl went pale. "I think so . . . Not out of a tap." 

Rodney said, "We'll have a long way to walk. We can't carry 
water. We'll just have to hope. There'll be kerosene oil and lamps, 
or Sumitra wouldn't have gone there. We have a torch . . . 
Come on." 

They fought their way out the door and along the front of the 
house to the little garage. Inside, one of the servants poured fuel 
from a two-gallon can into the tank of the prewar Austin, then 
Rodney slipped into the driver's seat, pushed the case over into the 
back, and started the engine. Margaret got in. 

"Hurry, hurry," she said, "I have an awful feeling that we're late 
already." 

286 



"Got to wait till the engine's warm, tonight/' he said. He 
switched on the headlamps, while the servants stood ready by the 
double doors. Minutes later he called out, "Darwaze kolnaf 

The servants struggled with the bolts. She muttered, "Rodney,, 
I'm frightened." 

He turned his head and for a moment she thought he was going 
to curse her for a cowardly slut. Instead, his hand went out and 
rested on her knee. "No, you're not," he said gently, "you've never 
been afraid when you're with me." 

The doors flung open and they drove out into the storm. Almost 
before they had left the shelter of the garage something struck the 
window beside Margaret's head with a heavy crash. She ducked, 
crying out. Rodney's smile was cheerful in the thin light from the 
dash. "Coconut," he said, "it hasn't broken the glass, has it?" 

Trembling with relief, she looked at the pane, and saw that it was 
starred from its center, but not broken. In the road Rodney turned 
north, the windshield wipers hurrying across the streaming glass 
and the lights boring a short, enclosed tunnel into the rain. The road 
lay inches deep in water and debris, and their wheels threw up angry 
waves on either side. For a time they drove without hindrance 
through factory and suburb, but the speed never rose above fifteen 
miles an hour. 

"Get that road map out of the pocket," he told her. "And the 
torch out of your case. . . . Note the mileage. We started at 3419. 
How many, on the map, to Khed?— Then look for the turning from 
3438 on. That's about the only way we'll recognize it tonight. . . . 
Have we got everything the baby will need after she's born— blankets, 
clothes, food?" 

"Yes. . . . Why should she run away suddenly? And how could 
she get there in this?" 

"Why?— God knows. Perhaps she'd decided she couldn't let you 
have the baby, after all. How?— At five the streets were probably 
full of taxis still. She'd have just about reached Pabal before it got 
really bad. . . . How long will it be before we can take the baby 
away? One week? Two weeks?" 

"It depends — look outl" The car was already stopping under the 
hard pressure of the brakes, throwing her forward onto the dash. A 
blue flash lit up the wet road, flailing trees and a line of hovels to 
the right. Another flash followed, and another, each one lighting up 
the inside of the car with a livid glow. Dimly seen, giant snakes 

287 



coiled in the road ahead. 

"Power cables/' Rodney said, "two, three. . . , Take the wheel. 
Give me the torch. Follow the light." 

"Rodney, we can't!" 

"Yes, we can. Just follow me, put the right wheel where I shine 
the torch." 

He got out and the door slammed. In the interval when the door 
was open another flash lit the car and she heard the crackling snap 
of the short circuit. For a moment blue fire ran along the seething 
gutter. She slid behind the wheel. 

The thin beam of the flashlight shone down. Clear in the head- 
lights she saw a looping coil of high-tension cable lash down and 
across the road, curled like a whip by the wind. Rodney stepped back 
without ducking, and shone the flashlight upward. The cable had 
looped into a tree, its end pouring out smoke. The other cables lay 
across the road. Rodney turned and signaled her on with the flash- 
light. She slipped the car into gear and crawled forward. He was 
standing close beside the cables and she saw that there, where the 
light shone, they lay flat in the water, hissing and sparkling. To the 
left they rose in waving coils. He jerked the light and she drove over 
the cables. The lights flickered and came on again, and her hands 
tingled on the wheel, then it passed, the door beside her opened, 
he was pushing her across the seat. The car moved again, faster now. 

The car lurched steadily on down the empty road. Three times 
Rodney and she had to get out and pull tree limbs out of the way. 
3431. 3432. 

The headlights shone on a heavy truck drawn across the road. A 
wildly swinging red lantern hung from its side. Rodney got out, the 
door slamming behind him. She saw him walk past the truck, return, 
go to a hut beside the road, bang on the door. Eventually the door 
opened and he disappeared. Five minutes later he returned. 

"Bridge gone," he said; "it's not much more than a culvert, but it's 
gone. They say we might be able to cross on the railway bridge." 

He turned the car and they went back the way they had come. 
After a mile a cart track branched off on the left. He changed down 
and turned onto the flooded cart track at an even pace. Sideslipping, 
skidding, but always moving, they came after a mile to the railway. 
Rodney turned onto the tracks, and began a slow bump bump bump 
northward along them, the catenary wires of the electrified line 

288 



arrowing down the upper blackness, the lights glinting along their 
undersurfaces. 

"Here it is" he said. He took the torch and jumped out. She 
saw him walk across the bridge, the torch flashing to right and left. 
When he got back into the driver's seat she said, "Is it all right? 
Can we get over?" 

He said, "It's two bridges, one for each track, so we can't go on 
down the middle, like this. Damn narrow. Guard rails inside the 
running rails, so there's no room for the car wheels. I'll have to put 
one wheel on the outside. Get out. Take the torch and the case. Walk 
over. If I don't make it, get back to the main road and bribe 
someone to take you on." 

"I'm not going without you!" she cried. "We can't go on if it's 
as dangerous as that." 

He pushed her forcibly out into the wind. She started across the 
bridge. Her head swam, for though it was a short span it had no 
railings and no side path. An inch below the concrete lip black 
water ran toward the sea with a sullen roar. 

At the far side she turned and waited. By then Rodney had forced 
the car up onto the rails. The headlights crept toward her, heavily 
tilted to the right where one pair of wheels rode on the narrow band 
of ballast outside the rail. If he slipped off that, he must lurch into 
the flood. The lights came on, bigger and brighter. 

They reached her. She pulled the door open and sank into her 
seat, shuddering and weeping. "Rodney," she moaned, "it's not 
worth it, nothing's worth it. . . . We don't even know whether 
she's there, whether she needs me, whether I can do anything!" 

The car bumped over the ties, and again his hand fell on her 
knee. He said, "None of us can do more than his best. That much 
we must do." 

Soon they reached a grade crossing and, turning sharply onto 
another waterlogged track, regained the main road. 

"What's the mileage now?" he asked. 

She peered at the speedometer: "3437— five to Khed, allowing for 
that diversion over the bridge." The car plowed on. 

Houses loomed up in the slashed blackness, all lights extinguished, 
and the street covered with bricks, slates, tiles, and balks of timber. 
At a crossroads in the center of the town the lights shone on a black 
arrow pointing left, and the message: Alkhuti — 5. 

289 



"Across the Salsette Marsh," Rodney said, "the wind will now 
blow— for a change." 

The road ran at first among the walls and bending trees of small 
farms and market gardens. The palms danced like madmen in the 
headlights. Every few yards one or both of them had to leave the car 
to drag wreckage out of the way. They were both as wet as 
swimmers, but they had been since leaving Sumitra's apartment. 
After two miles the palms and the walls and the spectral huts cower- 
ing in their lee vanished. The road became clear. 

They were out onto the open marsh. The untrammeled wind 
struck the car on the left side. Rodney swung the wheel sharply to 
present the front to the wind, and at the same time stood on the 
brakes to avoid running off the road. Margaret's knees shook so 
violently together that the bones hurt. If she tried to speak just 
now she would scream. 

Rodney looked at her in the dim light and said, "That was a bad 
one. . . . Open the back windows. We've got to reduce wind 
resistance— it's coming straight from the side, across the marsh. No 
more trees or other shelter till we reach the coast, probably. . . . But 
take the case out of the back and hold it on your lap. There'll be a 
lot of water coming in." 

She did as he ordered. As soon as she began to wind down the 
windows the wind shrieked through like a crazed animal, and she 
huddled forward beside Rodney, her body spread over the case. 

He said, "Suppose it's a difficult delivery . . . and you have to 
use forceps or anything like that ... it won't affect the baby, will 
it, I mean, her bones or head or anything?" 

She said, "Rodney, you must stop thinking so far ahead, about the 
baby. We've got to get there. We've got to find out how Sumitra is. 
She may still have a month to go . . ." 

He didn't seem to be listening to her, and she allowed her voice 
to die away. The little car moved on in a universe of wind and water, 
the world of human beings drowned or blown away. The lights 
shone down a straight causeway, shiny-wet with water, the surface 
mottled by the bursting of the rain drops upon it. To right and left 
stretched an ocean, also black, also shining, also mottled, but marked 
too by long wind streaks and, over all, a dense curtain of driving 
spray. Straining her eyes ahead Margaret could only just tell the dif- 
ference between the causeway and the flooded marsh, whose waves 
lapped over the road. 

290 



The car crawled on, lurching over to the right under the rhythmic 
pulse of the wind, crunching back on its springs, grinding on in low 
gear. 

The lights went out. The Austin squealed to a stop. Rodney got 
out and dragged himself forward along the side of the car. When he 
returned, he beckoned her to the driver's seat and bawled in her ear: 
"Glass blown in, bulbs smashed, all of them. Follow me." 

She looked at him, her eyes almost closed against the rain and 
wind that poured past his bulk. It was impossible to go on, it was 
madness. She smiled into his eyes. "All right." 

The beam of the flashlight crept forward and she engaged gear. 
Following at five paces behind him, she saw only his legs moving 
slowly, one after the other, down the left side of the road. He was 
leaning so far to the left, against the wind, that his upper part, seen 
dimly in outline, looked like one of those movie trick shots where 
a comedian leans over, past the borders of reason, on nothing. 

After ten minutes the light swung in a pendulum arc and then 
shone its beam left. The road made a full left turn. She inched 
round, more than ever conscious that she had no guide but the torch- 
light ahead. Now she could hardly see that. She could detect no dif- 
ference between the texture of the road and the flood. 

When she finished the turn the torch was almost under the 
wheels and she jammed on the brakes. Rodney was doing something 
but she could not make out what— fighting, wrestling . . . one leg 
rose in the air, kicked forward, then shot back. She heard and felt a 
crash as the wind threw him back against the hood. The light 
disappeared and she tugged at the door. 

The light came again, low to the ground now, but moving for- 
ward. The dim aura above was the shape of a man's back, a man 
on his hands and knees. Rodney was crawling into the wind. 

In that instant she knew they would reach the hut. No one else 
could have done it. Only this man, her man, Rodney Savage, could 
drive body and will and machine through such opposition as this. 
The spine of a book appeared before her straining eyes, the moving 
flashlight in the middle. She saw the title — Meru 1911-1921 — above 
the author's name— -Peter Savage. Now her father's face— the light in 
the middle of his forehead — talking always of mountains from his 
armchair. Herself, pigtails, twelve, thirteen years old, rainy day — the 
light jerking on behind the swinging wipers — red binding, heavy 
book, idly leafing through, rain on the window, liner siren mournful 

291 



in the Mersey . . . pictures, old-fashioned to her eye; reading a few 
pages until fear came, with dark visions of terror; the fear was not 
of the blizzards and precipices, it was fear of the man who wrote, 
his remorseless advance against overwhelming fate. The light crawled 
on. She had put the book away, never opened it again, never till this 
moment on the Salsette Marsh recalled it, or associated the name 
with her own man. He must have been Rodney's father, who died 
the day before Independence. 

She gripped the wheel more firmly. Perhaps she had shown Rodney 
something of determination, too, and could show him more. 

The road made another full turn, to the right, resuming its original 
westward course. Rodney struggled to his feet and walked on. Half 
an hour later he signaled her to stop. The wandering flashlight shone 
on an uprooted palm, others struggling in the grip of the wind, a 
house. The light vanished. She waited alone in the heaving car, keep- 
ing the engine running fast. The light reappeared, flickered, now 
shone in her eyes, now downward on the water through which he 
splashed back toward her. 

He tumbled in and flopped forward over the wheel as she squeezed 
away to make room for him. His breath came in long shuddering 
gasps. She put out her hand and stroked his streaming hair. He did 
not shrug her off— but perhaps he did not notice. After a time he 
raised his head. "Alkhuti," he said, "she came through just after six, 
and went on to Pabal. The taxi came back at once, without her. . . . 
But we can't take the car farther than this. Tarmac ends— sand track 
beyond, all flooded now." He edged the Austin into the lee of a hut 
and switched off the engine. "Close the windows. . . . Ready?" 

She braced herself. "Yes, I'm ready." 

"Here, carry the torch. Walk on my left, hold it in your left hand, 
hold me with your right. Straight ahead to the beach, a couple of 
hundred yards, then right, quarter of a mile on beach road, over 
bridge." 

He forced open the door and got out. She passed him the case and 
then struggled out herself. Hands locked, they began to walk. Walk- 
ing was hard, breathing harder. The wind blew so strongly that some- 
times it sucked the air out of her lungs and sometimes rammed an 
emulsion of air and spray down her throat, at a hundred miles an hour. 
She could only breathe through clenched teeth, but she needed more 
oxygen than that to move. Rodney, the heavy case dragging and 

292 



flapping in his right hand, often at arm's length, dragged her forward. 
The wind came in an alternating pattern of shriek and roar as they 
passed among and between the hovels of the village. All the time they 
walked in wind-whipped water, shifting sand under their feet below. 
All the time, too, a heavy throbbing, deeper than the boom of a 
liner's siren, deep as the deepest thunder, grew steadily louder and 
closer, and above it a rising hiss. The water in the wind now tasted 
salt, there was froth on the road, and the palm trunks were rimmed 
with white. The last trees fell back and without warning they came 
upon the sea. 

It offered no hold to any sense except hearing. The beam of the 
flashlight could not reach even to the nearest outflung fingers of the 
waves. Smell and touch were numb. Only through sound did she 
know that it had passed the high marks of the highest tides. In sound 
she "saw" the short waves crashing down, hurling forward with the 
long sibilant hiss, being dragged back, hissing louder. In sound she 
"saw" the deep swell from a thousand miles out, slowly rising and 
falling under the surface waves, twelve waves to every surge of the 
swell. In the upper registers she heard the wind dragging the surface 
off the water, as one drags a carpet off a floor, and hurling it inland, 
to coat with salt the palm trees and the huts. 

Rodney dragged her round to the right and immediately she found 
herself floating in huge strides, the wind forcing into her back and up 
under her buttocks in violent thrusts. In the jumping light she saw 
that they were being carried like sail planes down a beach road that 
ran along the top of what was normally a high, flat dune, now a ridge 
hardly above the level of the water. Rodney, offering more surface 
to the wind in his body and in the case gripped in his right hand, flew 
in longer strides beside her, and twice pulled her off her feet so that 
she dived on her face into the flooded sand. Then the wind held her 
down, and it took their combined strengths to get her up. On again, 
the sound of the sea lessening . . . 

Rodney leaned back, pulled hard at her arm. "Bridge," he screamed 
against her ear. 

She swung the light and it picked out a wooden railing in the sea. 
Waves raced past— not full ones, or nothing could have survived, 
but short, steep waves, near the end of their force as they rushed up 
into the long re-entrant leading to the marshes. 

"Walk behind me," Rodney shouted, "hand in my belt." 

2 93 



They went forward into the water. Ten feet out the railing began. 
By then the water was up to her knees. At the railing he leaned 
forward, grasped it firmly, and extended one foot to the right. 

''No, left," he shouted. He transferred the case to his left shoulder, 
gripped the railing with his right hand, and again carefully extended 
his foot. "O.K." 

They advanced slowly. The waves surged past at waist level, the 
crests tossing over the top of the railing. On, one foot at a time, 
feeling for the surface of the bridge under the water, cautiously plac- 
ing some weight on the leading foot, then more, then all. Shine the 
light forward, past Rodney's body. Anxiously look at the case, the 
white tension of his knuckles. 

"Hold!" 

She braced against a wave that almost knocked her off her feet. 

Rodney moved a little faster. He jerked downward and she lost her 
grip on his belt. The weight of the case dragged him sideways. The 
railing shuddered. He recovered his balance. "Surface gone," he 
shouted. He edged left, away from the railing, two, three, four side- 
ways paces Tried again. "O.K." On. Railing ended. "Bridge may 
have gone, too." Test . . . "O.K." One pace, another, another, the 
water thrusting like an animal against her, between her legs, wrench- 
ing at her skirt. Sudden step down, stumble, scream, regain footing. 
Shallower, shallower, up onto sand, churned sand strewn with foam 
and wreckage. 

"We've done it! Rodney, we've done it!" 

The flashlight showed a hut at the head of the beach. They strug- 
gled up the steps, banged on the door, shone the light through the 
windows. Empty. Fifty yards farther, another hut. Empty. And an- 
other. The light picked out a chair, a couch, a pair of feet, Sumitra's 
face and wide frightened eyes. 

Rodney said, "Door's bolted from inside. Through the window. 
No glass . . ." He hoisted and pushed her head first through the 
small window, which had never had any glass, only shutters now 
torn from their hinges and vanished. She hurried to the door and 
jerked back the bolt. 

Sumitra's voice called feebly, "Who's there?" 

"Margaret," she shouted, "and Rodney." 

The only response was a long-drawn fluttering moan. Rodney came 
in. Together they pushed the door shut and refastened the bolt. 

294 



Margaret hurried to the couch. "Is there a lamp here, Sumitra?" 

"I don't know," the voice muttered, "doesn't matter." 

The flashlight hurried round the room. A cupboard in one corner, 
an almirah in another, two cane chairs, some deck chairs stacked 
against the front wall, door at the back. Rodney ran to it, opened it 
. . . the light shone on a small kitchen, shelves stacked with cans— 
and a hurricane lantern, matchboxes. Rodney brought them out. 
Margaret found Sumitra's hand and gripped it. A match scratched, 
the glow of the hurricane lantern spread through the room. The 
gurgle and slap of oil as Rodney shook the lamp. "Almost full," he 
said. "More oil in the kitchen." 

Margaret said, "Now it's my turn." She said it aloud but no one 
heard. The light showed bare walls, the open window through which 
they had made entry, water lying below it. The wind howled into 
the room, the rain spattering her where she sat beside Sumitra. "Block 
that window," she said. 

Rodney dragged and pushed the almirah in front of the window. 
Margaret noticed another door beside the front door. "What's 
through there?" 

Rodney opened it, and the howling wind entered. He peered into 
the outer darkness for a moment and closed the door. "Bedroom, but 
most of the roof's gone there." 

He came to the couch. "Why did you run away? Were you trying 
to have the baby secretly and get out of your promise to us?" 

"Don't worry about it now, Sumitra," Margaret said, throwing a 
warning glance at Rodney. "When did the pains begin?" 

"A long time ago. I don't know. What time is it? ... I thought 
I'd give you a fright. You were going to get everything. I didn't be- 
lieve . . . I'm frightened, Margaret." Beads of sweat broke out on 
her forehead and a groan was forced between her writhing lips. 

Margaret said, "Hold me . . . Rodney, get sheets out of the bed- 
room. Knot one into a rope. Tear up others for rags and cloths. I've 
got to have hot water, too. Quickly." 

When the pain was over, Margaret asked again, "When did they 
begin?" 

"The waters broke just before I got here, in the taxi. Six o'clock." 

Margaret looked at her watch and started with horror and astonish- 
ment. Half past two. They had taken over five hours getting here. 
Sumitra had been in labor eight and a half hours. 

2 95 



Rodney gave her the knotted sheet. She tied one end quickly to a 
leg of the couch and gave the other to Sumitra. "Here, pull on that." 

Rodney said, "No fresh water. The tank outsiders been overturned. 
I can boil salt water. Make a desert cooker with sand and kerosene. 
It'll take about an hour to boil any quantity. A basinful. That's all 
there is to boil it in." 

"I can't wait that long/' Margaret said, "I must examine her now. 
Take off her sari. Put a sheet or blanket under her." 

"No blanket. The sheets are all soaked and filthy, like that one." 

"Leave it then. Go and get the water boiling. I'll need it later." She 
took Sumitra's wrist and felt for the pulse. 

Pulse 109, temperature about 101. She took the surgical gloves out 
of the case and began to spread them with Dettol. 

The couch on which Sumitra lay was a cane-bottom lounger, its 
end curved up to support the head. Margaret pulled her chair closer 
and said, "Raise your legs. Spread them. Tell me when you feel a 
pain coming." 

"It hurts all the time now." 

Margaret bent forward. . . . Transverse presentation for certain. 
That showed from the markedly transverse arch of the swollen belly, 
quite unlike the usual downward pointing egg. Gently she inserted 
her right hand into the birth passage. Feeling cautiously upward 
through the thin rubber of the glove she came upon a small pro- 
tuberance. She slid her finger over it, and bent her head to stifle a 
gasp. She had felt a hand and part of a forearm. "Hurry," Sumitra 
cried. Margaret slid her hand farther up and tried to feel inside the 
pelvic cavities to right and left. She could not, because both appeared 
to be filled, the fetal head and shoulder being in the cavity to the 
right. She withdrew her hand just in time before Sumitra's next pain 
began. 

Slowly, with the vast force of the mother's reserves of birth power, 
created for this final act, the hand and wrist of the fetus came into 
sight. She saw Rodney, passing with a kerosene oil can full of sand, 
pause and stare. His dark, drawn face turned pale. 

Margaret got up. Whatever might or might not have been done 
earlier, Sumitra had now arrived at a situation where the amniotic 
fluid had long since drained away, and could not perform its function 
as a lubricant of the birth passage. The fetus, pushed downward by 
her contracting muscles, had jammed sideways into the pelvis, one 

296 



arm outthrust. Every succeeding pain would impact it still more 
firmly. 

Black smoke and particles of oily soot swirled round the room. 
Quickly she pulled Sumitra's sari down over her upraised knees, 
sheltering the vulva. ''What are you doing?" she called. Sumitra be- 
gan to gasp, tugging at the knotted sheet. 

Rodney called, "It'll be better in a minute. I'm going to wedge the 
front door open an inch or two, and the kitchen door the same, to 
make a draft." 

She heard him pushing and pulling behind her, the scrape and 
creak of furniture, the roar of the wind. The smoke lessened. She 
shook her head, willing herself to think of nothing but her medical 
task. 

She must try to turn the fetus, though it was almost certainly too 
late to do so. If she failed, an expert obstetrician, with all facilities 
ready at hand, would be needed immediately. Suppose she sent Rod- 
ney back at once ... he could reach Khed in about three hours. 
Supposing he found a doctor at once, he could be back in three more 
... six hours. But suppose the bridge went? And how could he drive 
across the flooded marsh alone, without lights? She would lose them 
all then— the baby, the mother, and Rodney. That she must not think 
about. Her responsibility was the mother and child. ... Six hours 
was too much. She must act sooner than that, and when she did she 
would need an assistant. 

Rodney stood beside her, staring fixedly at the hand and wrist of 
his child protruding from Sumitra's body, just visible under the arched 
sari. Sumitra saw his face concentrated only on her loins, and closed 
her eyes. 

Margaret took his arm. "Come over here." In a comer of the room 
close to the door, where she had to raise her voice to be heard above 
the bellow of the sea and the roar of the wind, she said, "I am 
going to try to turn the fetus. You'll give her chloroform. Move that 
small table to be ready beside you, at her head. Five drops onto the 
pad, and when I nod, hold it gently on her face. Hold her pulse in 
the other hand, and count it aloud, so that I can hear. At 'ten' raise 
the pad, and don't put it on again until I say so, and then only for 
a count of five. Do you understand?" 

"Yes ... My hand's shaking . . . What's the matter?" 

"I can't explain now . . . hold the pad loosely. Don't tense. If I 

297 



say stop, take the pad off at once. It means her pulse rate is getting 
dangerous. Pull her sari up— right up. More Dettol on the gloves. 
That's enough. All right, there's the chloroform, and the pads. Get 
ready." 

She bent over her patient. "I've got to put you to sleep for a bit 
now, Sumitra. Count aloud." 

"One— two— three— " 

"Head back. Relax. Just breathe easily, between counts, not too 
deeply." She saw that Rodney was ready, and nodded. He lowered 
the pad onto Sumitra's upturned face. 

"Seven— eight— nine— ten." The counting turned to a mumble 
and died away. 

"Pulse," Margaret snapped. 

Rodney jumped, took Sumitra's wrist and began to count. Margaret 
inserted her right hand into the birth passage, pressed her left hand 
firmly into the drumlike belly from outside, forcing down until she 
felt the head and shoulder of the fetus. She began to try to turn it 
out of its position. . . . The hut trembled continuously, the bottles 
and instruments rattled on the flimsy table. Rodney's voice intoned 
on, sharp and nervous, counting beats of the pulse. The patient 
moved. "Pad," she said. 

She had never done this before. This was a doctor's job, always. 
Once, at the Royal Mersey, a sardonic young intern had told her to 
feel the position, so that she would know what they were up against. 
The forces of the birth pains, which had been spaced apart, had now 
become a steady bursting pressure, like an overinflated balloon. The 
sweat ran down her face, but her body was clammy and cold. Using 
all her strength, pushing up from inside and forcing up from outside, 
she could not move the fetus an inch. 

She stood up. Rodney kept his eyes down, counting on. Pulse rate 
rising. She would be conscious in a moment or two. Temperature 
still raised. 

"What's happening?" Rodney said, breaking the rhythm,— "five, 
six, seven— for God's sake, what's happening?— eight, nine ... Is the 
baby all right?" 

She did not answer. Should she bring Sumitra round, knowing that 
she would have to put her out again soon? How strong was she? Not 
very. She'd have to come round. Coming now . . . 

A long moan. "She'll be sick," she said. "Hold her head. Wash her 
face, then clean up." 

298 



She turned away. Behind her she heard the sound of retching mixed 
with groans and, later, Sumitra's faint voice, "I'm alive. . . . Mar- 
garet." 

"Yes?" 

The hot hand reached up for hers. She smiled, withdrawing her 
hand. "I can't touch you, Sumitra . . . gloves." 

"Margaret, there's something wrong, isn't there?" 

Margaret held the smile on her face. "Not exactly wrong— just a 
little difficulty." 

"Don't lie, Margaret . . . I'm not afraid now ... I think I 
have nothing to live for. You can save the baby, at least? Then I will 
live on, through her. He'll love that much of me, all the rest for- 
given . . ." 

Rodney's face, tortured into ugliness, stared at her across Sumitra's 
body. Margaret turned away and gazed at the almirah that blocked 
the window, willing her vision to see through it to the open air 
beyond. But beyond there was a storm of wind and rain, night, and 
the sea, no peace, no distant view. 

Only a Caesarean could now save the baby. It was a major opera- 
tion, only to be performed with safety by a trained surgeon in a 
well-equipped theater, with all the proper assistants. She looked at 
the thin catgut and fine needles in the case, suitable for the repair of 
a minor postparturition tear, never for a Caesarean. She looked at the 
muddy slop on the floor, the streaks of sand and mud on Rodney's 
face, the filth and stains on her own blouse and skirt. 

She remembered a film where some man marooned in a cabin miles 
from anywhere had done some tremendous operation directed by a 
doctor over the radio. But that was a film, this was real. She knew 
more than the man in the cabin had known, she had seen many 
Caesareans performed under her eyes. She knew too much. There 
was the sheer skill at the cutting and sewing, the time in which she 
must complete the resewing before hemorrhage killed the patient. If 
it were a matter of life and death, with no alternative, then she would 
have to try. But there was an alternative. She could cut the fetus in 
pieces and deliver them, one at a time, through the birth passage. 
Barring infection under these appalling conditions, that would save 
Sumitra. 

But supposing she could do the operation? Once she cut into the 
skin would not a miraculous skill come to her from God, from her 
experience, lending her for those vital minutes the incisive certainty 

299 



of Mr. Dutt, Mr. Mackenzie at the Royal Mersey? 

She looked at her patient. She needed another ten minutes to re- 
cover from the anesthetic before she went under again. No more, as 
the pains were coming close now. 

She said to Rodney, "I want to look at that hot water . . . We'll 
be in the kitchen, Sumitra, and I can see you from there." 

In the tiny kitchen she stood pressed close to Rodney in one corner, 
by the open door from the big room. In the opposite corner the wind 
whipped flames and oily black smoke round the basin set on the kero- 
sene oilcan. She said, "We don't have much time to spare, but you've 
got to understand. The baby can't be born normally because it is 
jammed. A surgeon in an operating theater could perform a Caesarean, 
but I can't. So . . ." 

"Of course you can, Margaret! I can help. My hand will be steady, 
for that." 

Again the temptation assailed her. She saw the film, the trapper's 
hand moving surely over the bare skin . . . Her own hand shook and 
her voice, when it came, was high-pitched and tremulous. "I can't! 
I'd have to cut through the skin, through the fat, through layers of 
tissue, and finally into the womb. The womb's bursting under pres- 
sure, the covering is as thin as paper! As soon as the knife cuts into 
it, terrible arterial bleeding will begin, gushing out everywhere. In 
that I have to extract the fetus— the baby— and the placenta, sew 
everything up from the inside out, layer by layer— with those needles! 
I've seen a surgeon with an assistant, three trained nurses, and an 
anesthetist only just finish in time, and the woman on blood trans- 
fusions afterward, actually during it. We cannot give her a transfu- 
sion. I ... I ... I dare not and will not do Hi" 

"What do you want to do?" 

"Want ... I must remove the fetus, in pieces, by the normal 
passage." 

"But that's murder! . . . Can't you wait? It's past three. Someone 
will be here in the morning . . ." 

"No. Her womb is stretching thinner with every pain. In an hour 
or two, if I don't take out the fetus, it will burst, and she'll die in a 
few minutes from loss of blood. . . . Help me, Rodney! Give me the 
courage to do what I must do, the way you did getting us out here 
from Bombay. How do you think I feel?" 

Rodney pressed back against the wall away from her. Past his tense, 

300 



bitter face she saw Sumitra lying still on the couch. 

She stretched out her hands to seize his arm, to dig her nails into 
his flesh. The sheen of the surgical gloves caught her eye and she 
jerked back her hands, but they hovered in front of her face, between 
her and Rodney, the fingers crooked and tense. She cried, "Do you 
think I don't know what this means? But what kind of future can we 
have, paid for with her blood, and my respect? She said once, 
twice, three times, that I was nothing but a woman, in love with you. 
I believed her. But now, here, I've learned it's not true. I'm also a 
nurse, Rodney." 

Sumitra began to stir uneasily, her legs moving up and down, down 
and up. Slowly Rodney's head swung to the right, then to the left. 
Then he turned completely round, looking away from her. But there 
was no help, no other solution but the echo of her words, and the 
wind. 

Her voice came out flat and unemotional: "We must start now." 
The water in the basin looked to be hot but not boiling. Since she 
had no cold to mix it with, that would be good. "Bring the basin 
through, put it at the foot of the couch. Then get ready to use the 
chloroform again, same as last time. It will be very bad to watch. 
I would give anything to save you that, at least— but I can't. I 
need you." 

She walked into the big room and began to make ready. 

From the case she took the razor and, kneeling expertly, shaved off 
the lower part of Sumitra's pubic hair. This she had done a thousand 
times, she thought with weary bitterness ... if this were all! She 
spoke to Rodney: "Put the basin down here beside me. Pour in three 
capfuls of Dettol." She dipped her finger in it. She'd never heard 
of sea water being used for sterilization and cleaning, but no reason 
why not— except for the sand lying in the bottom. Must wait for 
that to settle. And it would sting. Since it wasn't boiling, sterilization 
of the instruments would have to be done in pure Dettol. Sumitra 
was deadly pale now, not far from the final collapse of exhaustion. 

Margaret carefully washed her gloved hands, then washed the ex- 
posed vulva and extruded hand. She stood up. 

"Head back, Sumitra, look at the ceiling . . . think of rest, think 
of sleep. Ready, Rodney. Start counting . . . When you wake up 
this time it'll all be over." 

Sumitra said, "The baby . . . baby . . ." Her mumbling died 

301 



away under the pad as Rodney's hand came slowly, shaking, down. 

Margaret took up the bottle of Dettol in one hand and in the other 
the long surgical scissors. From Rodney she heard, amid the dead 
monotone of his counting, a falling sigh that sounded like the stifled 
scream of an anguished child. She poured the antiseptic liberally over 
the scissors, put down the bottle, and bent over between Sumitra's 
raised, spread legs. 

Half an hour later she stood up. At once she clutched the side of 
the couch to prevent herself from falling. On a torn sheet at her feet 
lay the separated head and body of Rodney's child, with the placenta 
and umbilical cord that had so long nourished it. A pool of blood 
congealed under Sumitra's body and the cane latticework of the 
couch was sticky with blood. Rodney stood like a dead tree, brittle 
and white, at the head of the couch. 

Margaret dropped the scissors into the basin, dipped her hands, 
and began to massage the outside of Sumitra's belly. As she worked 
steadily away, neither seeing nor feeling anything, Sumitra returned 
to consciousness. "It's over," Margaret said dully. "Look at the 
ceiling! Rodney, do this ... dig in with your fingers, not too hard, 
knead gently . . ." 

Rodney stepped forward, two wooden paces, and did as she told 
him. Margaret knelt to gather up the sheet bearing the remains o£ 
the baby. 

Rodney said, "I'll do that." 

She stood up. Rodney was right. She should stay with Sumitra— but 
to expect him to carry his own dead, mangled child was too much. 
He went into the kitchen and she heard the door being forced open. 
The wind seemed to have lessened a little, though it was still strong. 
He came back, lifted the sheet, and went out. She closed the door 
after him and returned to her place, massaging to help Sumitra's 
uterus in its contractions. 

Sumitra's voice was faint. "Was it a girl?" 

"Yes." 

"Is he burying her?" 

"Yes." 

She filled a syringe. "I'm going to give you an injection in the arm. 
It's to help contract the womb. There." 

"I ... I think I'm going to sleep. I'm terribly, terribly . . . 
tired." 

302 



"Yes. Sleep. I'll be here." 

She sat down on the hard chair and waited, watching the other 
woman. After a time she picked up a wrist and felt the pulse. Still 
weak but rebuilding. Ought to give her some hot tea when she awakes. 
No water. Temperature still high. Ought to get her to a hospital at 
once, too. Penicillin. Hardly could have avoided infection, in these 
conditions. Janaki and Mr. Dutt would come. When? Noon, perhaps. 
Rodney was being a long time. Burying his daughter. Burying his 
future. And hers. Where had he gone? He should have waited for 
her. She had to stay by the patient, an hour at least, after the de- 
livery of the placenta. That was the rule. More if no one else was 
present. Past four o'clock, everything absolutely blank, no smell, no 
hearing, no touch, no taste, no emotion, sight fading. 

Five o'clock. Six o'clock. Dawnlight, green and pale, the patient 
sleeping soundly. She rose stiffly and went to the door, opened it, and 
looked out. Something moved along the dunes on the mainland, 
about half a mile away. It was a Weasel, one of the army's small 
amphibious vehicles. She watched as it came closer, and at a quarter 
of a mile recognized the bald dome and round figure of Mr. Dutt, 
standing up in the back with Janaki and a sepoy. Two more soldiers 
were crammed into the front seat. 

She turned, walked through the room without another glance at 
the patient, and went out the back door. The peninsula was covered 
with palm trees, sparse beach undergrowth, and patches of long grass. 
The trees waved and swung in the wind but now merely with energy, 
instead of frenzy. After ten minutes the palms fell back and she came 
out on the final point of sand. 

The wind blew strong, the sea heaved and plunged to the horizon. 
Driving sand thrust sharp arrows into her skin. The beach was littered 
with wreckage, wreckage of huts, of trees, of a world. At the farthest 
point of the peninsula, where the sea raced past, furious and yellow 
and deep at the edge of the steep slope, a man stood, his back to the 
land. She went out to him. 

When she reached him he spoke at once, as though he had been 
expecting her. "I never knew I was a coward until now." His voice 
was loud but full of doubt, like a man who shouts and does not know 
whether he will be heard. "I've been here since I buried her. I meant 
to come, walk into the sea, keep on walking. It wouldn't have lasted 

3°3 



a minute. Look at the tide, look at the sea! ... I couldn't do it. I 
was lonely." 

She took his hand. "I'll go with you/' she said. She had taken his 
life, she would give him hers in return. She felt so weak she could 
hardly stand. For her, it would last less than a minute because she 
could not struggle even if she wanted to, and she did not want to. She 
had killed any hope of his love far more effectively than Sumitra had 
done. Without him, there was nothing. She knew now inside herself 
exactly what he had felt during those long months: nothing, abso- 
lutely nothing. 

She walked into the sea and he followed. The sea tugged greedily 
at her ankles. Another step and it fondled her knees. The hand was 
restraining her, pulling her back. 

"Wait," he said. She stopped, head down, unfeeling. "You didn't 
give me time to tell you. A few minutes ago before you came, I found 
that though I didn't have the guts to die I could find the guts to live. 
What I saw and did tonight turned from an ending into a beginning 
. . . from a final, terrible experience into a command for the future. 
Look, my hands are strong, my eyes steady. I can learn." 

"What?" she asked dully. 

"To be a surgeon." 

She turned and stared at him. "You? A surgeon? It takes a long 
time . . . Yes. You could be a surgeon. You have the nerve. . . . 
Let me go." 

"No. I need a housekeeper. Someone who will earn a living for me, 
too, while I learn." 

"Is that all you want?" 

There was no answer, and after a time she raised her head again 
and looked at him. He was smiling. At the sight of her the smile, 
shining white in his dark, filthy, weary face, turned into a low, long 
laugh. 

She said, "But . . . but you said you'd never laugh again!" 

His face returned to its seriousness, but without any trace of sadness 
or bitterness. "My baby's dead, yet I can laugh. It's like a funeral in 
the army. We march to the grave in slow time, with arms reversed 
and the pipes playing a lament. We come back in quick time, the 
bugles blowing and our heads up. You know, all those things that 
you did for me, all that you have been, and are— I didn't feel them 
at the time, but I did see them. They have been stored away, like film 

304 



—waiting to be developed. I've been doing a lot of developing, stand- 
ing here on the brink . . . Well, will you take me on— for life instead 
of death?" 

The hand pulled her steadily out of the sea and along the sand. The 
small waves lapped at her feet and the spray tingled in her eyes, but 
the wind lessened as they turned the corner of the point and reached 
the lee of the peninsula. 



3°5 



About the Author 

John Masters was born in India, the son of a captain 
in the 16th Rajputs. He was sent to England, his fam- 
ily's homeland, for his education. 

After graduation from Sandhurst, the British West 
Point, in 1934, Mr. Masters returned to India to join 
the Indian Army. During World War II, he fought in 
Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Burma, being awarded the D.S.O., 
O.B.E., and a mention in dispatches. After the war, he 
was assigned to teach mountain and jungle warfare at 
the British Staff College in England. 

After the Indian Emancipation in 1947, there was 
no longer a place for Masters in the Army and so, with 
his wife and children, he came to the United States. 
Today he lives in New City, New York. 

John Masters' books have been published, praised, 
and widely read in many countries. They are: Night- 
runners of Bengal (1951), The Deceivers (1952), The 
Lotus and the Wind (1953), Bhowani Junction ( 1954) , 
Coromandel (1955), Bugles and a Tiger (1956), Far, 
Far the Mountain Peak (1957), Fandango Rock 
(1959), The Venus of Konpara (i960), and The Road 
Past Mandalay ( 1961 ) . 



Set in Linotype Electra 

Format by Barbara Luttringhaus 

Manufactured by American Book-Stratford Press 

Harper & Row, Publishers, New York and Evanston 



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